Kiefer Ravena’s intensity rubs off on Road Warriors in his long-awaited return
MANILA, Philippines—If there’s one player in the PBA who can easily generate hype despite being absent, it’s Kiefer Ravena.
Players who are either injured or riding free agency are usually shrugged off, but not Ravena who received substantial media attention during his first practices with the national team and NLEX.
Fiba suspended Ravena for 18 months for violating the World Anti-Doping Agency’s regulations and it was only this week that the sophomore was able to train with Gilas and the Road Warriors.
Ravena’s first practice with NLEX on Tuesday spelled instant dividends with the Road Warriors showing their heart in their 100-97 win over Rain or Shine in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup, and head coach Yeng Guiao couldn’t be any happier with his players’ impact.
“Our practice became intense because that’s what Kiefer brings,” said Guiao Friday at Smart Araneta Coliseum. “He’s very intense in the practices and it rubs off to the rest of his teammates.”
NLEX’s import Olu Ashaolu first met Ravena not in the Philippines but in Macau when the Road Warriors participated in the Asia League: Summer Super 8 back in July of 2018.
Ravena was suspended on May 22, 2018 and he can play in his first official basketball game in August, just in time for the Governors’ Cup.
“I’ve been hearing about him since last year and I met him one time in Macau,” said Ashaolu who had 26 points, 13 rebounds, and six assists against the Elasto Painters. “After I practiced with him in his first day back, I can already see how good of a player he is. I’m excited to play with a guy like him.”
Ravena, the second overall pick of the 2017 PBA Rookie Draft, was a highly-touted prospect since his college days in Ateneo winning two UAAP titles and the same number of MVPs.
The former Blue Eagle was also a four-time gold medalist in the Southeast Asian Games immediately making him one of the more decorated players even before stepping on the PBA.
Poy Erram, who was Ravena’s teammate in Ateneo for three years, said he looks forward to reuniting with Ravena and he expects his former collegiate running mate to get back to his old ways.
“Kiefer is a stabilizer,” said Erram who had 13 points and seven boards against Rain or Shine. “We won’t have a disadvantage at the point guard position because Kiefer can do a lot of things.”
“He sets up his teammates, he can score, he can create mismatches on defense, so he’ll be a great help for us,” added Erram.
Ravena isn’t just reuniting with his former Ateneo teammate; he’s also about to share the same backcourt with Jericho Cruz whom he played with in the 2013 national team that won the gold in the SEA Games.
Cruz, who was traded acquired from TNT via trade, is the player Guiao is looking for to pair with Ravena and injured star Kevin Alas in the NLEX backcourt.
“Us guards are challenged when he’s on the team and I’m excited to play alongside him,” said Cruz who finished with 15 points, six rebounds, and six assists. “I played with him in the SEA Games, and of course I’m also excited to play with Kevin. Hopefully we’ll be okay in the next conference.”
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