THIRDY Ravena made a promise to Rhenz Abando and he delivered.
The senior Ateneo forward gave two pairs of shoes — Zoom Freak 1s and Jordan Mars 270s — to his high-flying UST counterpart after their well-fought 71-70 duel on Wednesday.
"Nung D-League, tinanong niya kung ano'ng size ng sapatos ko. Size 13 siya, ako naman size 12. Ngayon niya lang naibigay," said Abando, who was all smiles as he got new pairs of kicks.
Was it a passing of the torch of sorts?
Ravena offered nothing about it, but he made sure to give a toast to the first-year player from Sto. Tomas, La Union, who has been on his radar ever since the preseason.
"He's unique," said the two-time Finals MVP. "Alam ko na, it's just a matter of everyone seeing it. I already knew there's something different in him. He had the determination and yung willingness niya to play and perform is just on a different level. Yung mga ganung klaseng players, special players, makikita mo agad eh.
"Yung athleticism niya, yung shooting niya, ang hirap na mix nun. Pero kita mo sa laro niya na he just wants to play, just like nakikita ko kay Mark Nonoy. Gusto lang nilang maglaro. Wala silang ibang iniisip kung hindi basketball. Maganda panoorin yun pero mas mahirap bantayan. That's what makes them special."
It was an entertaining duel between the two in the Ateneo-UST clash, with Ravena leading the Blue Eagles with 17 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, and two steals, while Abando doing his part for the Growling Tigers with nine points and five rebounds, including a jaw-dropping alley-oop play off of a Brent Paraiso assist to start the fourth quarter.
Ravena may be four years senior to Abando, but their age means little to the battle they've had on the court.
And for the former, talents like Abando forces him to level up his game despite the stature he already has in the league.
"Para sa akin, yun ang essence ng pagiging competitive," he said. "Yun ang masaya pag nakakilala ka ng player na ganun, mafo-force ka pa lalo na ibigay mo yung lahat."
The same goes for Abando, who is not only challenged to step up his game whenever he faces off against Ravena but also humbled for the bevy of praises the second-generation star threw his way.
"Sobrang nakaka-inspire kasi pinapanood ko lang sila dati sa TV, kalaro ko na ngayon so gusto mo talagang sabayan," he said. "Akala ko dati, pag Ateneo isnabero at masungit. Ngayon, alam ko nang sobrang bait niya."