MANILA, Philippines—Eight seconds was all it took for Kiefer Ravena to once again feel comfortable inside the basketball court.
After an 18-month suspension following a positive test for banned substances, Ravena was finally back on the court, back to playing competitive basketball. He had been practicing with Gilas Pilipinas since June, but had to settle for participating in scrimmages. He could only sit and observe during the national team's tune-up games in Spain, and against the Adelaide 36ers last Friday.
The countdown to his return reached zero on Saturday, August 24, and he officially returned to the court in Gilas' second tune-up against the 36ers. Ravena did not start, entering instead at the 3:15 mark of the first quarter. It wasn't until the second period, however, that Ravena made his mark.
A poor inbound by the 36ers allowed Ravena to poach the ball off Kevin White, and he soared to the bucket for a lay-up just eight seconds into the second quarter. It was his first official field goal since being suspended on May 22, 2018.
"Ewan ko kung binigay sa akin 'yung steal na 'yun, pina-lay-up ako nu'ng isa. Sabi niya, 'Ang tagal na-suspend 'to, pa-lay-upin natin,' " Ravena joked.
That lay-up was all Ravena needed. He hit a 3-pointer in Gilas' next possession, then crossed over a taller defender before splashing a mid-range jumper next. In the fourth quarter, he drove to the hoop, faked a pass, then scooped in a lay-up to add to his highlight reel.
"Parang doon, 'yun 'yung parang medyo OK na," Ravena said. "Doon ko na natapos 'yung kung ano man 'yung nararamdaman kong gigil, 'yung pagiging kalma ko, andoon na lahat 'yun."
Asked to describe how he felt upon making his return, Ravena heaved out a big sigh.
"Ayun," he said. " 'Yun talaga."
"Parang pagtapak ko pa lang nu'ng umpisa, 'yun talaga 'yung naramdaman ko, noong pinasok ako. Kasi alam mo 'yun, di na kailangan magtago, di na kailangan mag-isip na bawal ito, bawal ganyan," he added.
"I'm just playing to play the sport that I love, and just representing my country to the highest and best of my abilities."
Ravena gave his performance a 6 or a 7, docking points because of their 85-75 loss to the 36ers. He finished with 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting, along with 2 rebounds in just over 17 minutes of playing time. He did have 3 turnovers, and failed to register a single assist.
"Marami pang kulang," Ravena said of his performance. "Hopefully, I can catch up."
"Sayang, talo," he also said. "Pero a lot of lessons learned all throughout the game. It could have been a better ending for us going to the World Cup."
"Pero for me, I just wanted to get my feet wet, especially ang tagal ko di nakapag-laro. It was just nice to be around the guys again."
Ravena will play in a tune-up game with the NLEX Road Warriors on Wednesday morning, a day before the national team leaves for China.
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