HE’S just a practice player, but that won’t stop Kiefer Ravena from playing like he’s vying for a spot in the Final 12 of Gilas Pilipinas for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament next year.
The amateur superstar attended national team practice for the first time on Monday night at the Meralco gym, adding a warm body to training that has never been complete owing to a hectic PBA schedule.
“No expectations, but it’s a challenge for me,” Ravena said in a short chat with Spin.ph after practice. “Malay mo, ma-lineup, so bigay todo lang lagi. Para sa bayan na ‘to eh.”
“Syempre, experience din ‘to sa akin and ako din ang magbe-benefit dito pag gawin kong maayos at gawin ko yung best ko,” he added.
The Ateneo star guard asked the permission of national coach Tab Baldwin to join practice after the Blue Eagles’ UAAP campaign was over.
“Kasi nakita ko dati na eight, nine lang (yung players), so sabi ko na after the UAAP, if he needs bodies, I’d be happy to join,” Ravena said of his conversation with Baldwin, who missed training as he was still set to return from the US after attending to his ailing brother.
“Hindi naman ako magdadalawang isip ever to play and help the national team in whatever way I can.”
Ravena has also been eager to play after he has used up all his years of eligibility in the UAAP.
“Everybody was telling me, lalo na yung mga PBA na beterano, na enjoyin ko yung bakasyon ko kasi pagdating ko daw ng PBA, wala na akong bakasyon, lalo na pag may Gilas pa ako, kasi year round na ako naglalaro,” the 22-year-old cager said.
“I just can’t get basketball out of my system that easy,” he was quick to add. "Kahit papaano, I still look for teams to practice with. Siguro withdrawal syndrome na pagkatapos ng UAAP, meron akong stigma na wala na akong lalaruan.”
Gilas assistant coach Jong Uichico, who supervised the practice, said Ravena and the rest of the cadets are welcome to train with them.
“They’re open to come,” the TNT coach said. “Pareho naman sistema eh. At least pag may nagpahinga na PBA player, they can come.”