SEA Games: Why late Gilas entry Kiefer says Gold No. 5 is best yet

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 11 2019 02:05 AM

Kiefer Ravena wasn't initially part of the SEA Games pool, but he always made it a point "to be ready" for a call-up. "That's one lesson I've learned," he said. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines—The Southeast Asian Games is "old stuff" for Kiefer Ravena.

This, according to Gilas Pilipinas coach Tim Cone, who bantered with the NLEX guard after the Philippines' 115-81 rout of Thailand in the gold medal game of the 30th Southeast Asian Games on Tuesday night.

"It's all new for us," said Cone, who was coaching in the SEA Games for the first time ever. "But it's all old for him."

"He knew it was in the bag, all the time," he added.

Cone was not wrong. The 2019 SEA Games was already the fifth of Ravena's career; he had been representing the country in the biennial tournament ever since 2011 in Jakarta, when he was just 18 years old.

In the 2017 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, Ravena etched his name into the history books by winning a fourth men's basketball gold, breaking a record he had shared with Rommel Adducul. Afterward, he said that he was not ruling out another stint, especially with the 2019 SEA Games to be held at home.

Initially left out of the Gilas Pilipinas pool, Ravena became a late inclusion after Jayson Castro unfortunately suffered a knee injury. 

"I know it was a big gap to fill in with Jayson," said Ravena after their gold medal game. "But you know, being with these guys made it a lot easier for me."

"These guys" meant a group of veteran players, led by San Miguel's June Mar Fajardo and Chris Ross, and Ginebra's LA Tenorio and Japeth Aguilar. Though Ravena only joined the team in its last month of preparation, he did not seem to miss a beat when it came to fitting in with the squad, or in learning Cone's system.

"Hindi man kami magkakasama ng isang buwan siguro. We had a total of probably at least 10 practices, but it felt like we've been playing together for quite a while," he said.

"So it says a lot on how coach Tim treats his players, treats his system. And I've learned a lot with the time that I was there."

This is just one of the reasons that makes this latest SEA Games gold special for Ravena. He also cherishes how they played in front of the Filipino fans at Mall of Asia Arena who were raucous in their support of the squad.

"Everybody was able to come out and support Gilas," he said.

That he was able to make it to the final 12 despite being an injury replacement also made the experience all the more precious for Ravena.

"Sa una, I wasn't even part of the pool na makapaglaro dito sa Gilas. And you know, you just have to be ready. Siguro one lesson that I've learned is you just have to be ready and really play your best," he said.

"During the time na nabuo 'yung pool, during the PBA season, sabi ko kailangan ko lang maging ready any time kung anumang mangyari."

All these, he said, make the 2019 SEA Games one that he will never forget.

"All in all, this is probably the best for me," he said. "I wouldn't say na baka last ko na 'to, di natin malalaman. But if it's my last, what a way to cap it off, playing in front of the home crowd and getting my fifth gold medal."

Like he did in Kuala Lumpur, though, Ravena refused to rule out yet another SEA Games campaign.

"Baka pwede pa," he said. "Baka next time, makasabay ko pa si Thirdy. We'll see."

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