'Game-changer' Kiefer Ravena draws praise from Gilas elder Jayson Castro
Gilas guard Kiefer Ravena chipped in nine points, five assists, two boards, and one steal in less than 16 minutes against Chinese-Taipei on Monday night. Jerome Ascano

JAYSON Castro knows he can take over for Gilas Pilipinas when he needs to, proving it in the team’s games against Japan and Chinese Taipei in the first window of the Fiba World Cup qualifiers.

But it would be easier for the national team star to dish it out, see everyone else having touches, and contributing in a balanced effort moving forward.

“Siguro yung ball movement namin kasi this game parang more on one-on-one,” Castro said even though Gilas dished out 23 assists against the visitors. “At the same time lahat excited, lahat parang gigil, kaya sinabihan kami ni coach na maging kalma lang like we did against Japan, siguro dahil na rin na nasa home crowd kaya ayun.”

Like how he rescued the team against Japan, Castro again had to take matters into his own hands at some point against Taiwan as he scored 15 of his 20 points in the second half of the 90-83 win.

At least 'The Blur' drew plenty of playmaking help from Kiefer Ravena, who showed maturity beyond his years in his seniors’ team debut, chipping in nine points, five assists, two boards, and one steal in less than 16 minutes against Taiwan as he conspired with June Mar Fajardo to lead the bench attack.

“Sobrang ganda ng laro ni Kiefer,” Castro said. “Actually isa siya sa mga nag-change (ng laro) pati si June Mar. Sana magtuloy-tuloy na kasi nakuha na niya rhythm niya.”

And despite not playing as fluidly as expected as a unit, the national team still grinded out the wins to complete a sweep of the first window.

“Sobrang importante (ng 2-0) kasi ung format ngayon napakahirap, every game counts tapos once na natalo ka may tsansa ka na malaglag sa Top Three,” Castro said. “So parang going into this game sabi namin kahit anung mangyari basta manalo tayo even 'yun nga masama first half natin, buti gumanda nung second half. Pero yun nga madami kaming natutunan sa game na to.”


For now, Castro can take a much-deserved vacation after nursing a minor back injury, before returning to TNT.

“Actually before the tournament may back spasms ako kaya after game di ako nakaka ... pero kailangan ko ng madaming stretch,” Castro revealed. “Pero at least yun natapos na balik na kami sa mga mother teams namin and siguro rest ng konti then training ulit.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos