Kiefer Ravena says Gilas stint a perfect 'OJT training' before PBA debut for NLEX
Kiefer Ravena says he was grateful to 'learn from the best' at Gilas. Jerome Ascano

NO better way for Kiefer Ravena to learn the ropes before he makes his much-awaited PBA debut than to play against the best players in the region.

The NLEX rookie said playing with Gilas Pilipinas in the FIBA World Cup qualifiers came as a confidence boost for him as he prepares to make his pro debut three weeks from now.

Ravena, 24, is the only rookie to crack the 12-man roster of coach Chot Reyes in the two games the national team has played in the first window of the qualifiers for the 2019 Fiba World Cup in China.

“Definitely, malaking advantage being able to play with the best guys in the league, all of them are PBA players,” said Ravena, who accounted for nine points, two rebounds, and five assists in 15 minutes in Gilas’ 90-83 win over Chinese Taipei on Monday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

“Being around with them helps me a lot in learning how the PBA is,” added the former Ateneo standout selected No. 2 overall by the Road Warriors in the recent rookie draft.

Ravena played a solid game as back-up to veteran Jayson Castro and Gabe Norwood against the Taiwanese after seeing limited action against Japan on Friday which Gilas also won, 77-71.

He drew the fifth and final foul of naturalized player Quincy Jones and his two free throws inside the final two minutes gave Gilas a safe 86-76 lead.

But Ravena was quick to deflect credit to his more veteran teammates following the win that saw the Filipinos fight back from a 14-point first quarter deficit.

“They help me look good. But it’s really a great experience learning from the best, from Gabe to Jayson. Seeing them play there and at the same time, get some finer points about playing the game from them is a big help for me,” said the two-time UAAP MVP.

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Reyes later commended his bench, Ravena included, for giving Gilas the push it needed in overcoming a slow start against the visiting team.

“Our second unit gave us a big lift when especially after Taipei raced to a 14-point lead. Our second unit got us back to the game,” he said, referring to Ravena, Calvin Abueva, Roger Pogoy, and June Mar Fajardo.

“It proved the value of having a good bench.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @gerardmos