Kiefer Ravena, the second overall pick of the 2017 PBA Draft, will be the cager to watch when the PBA Philippine Cup opens its doors on Dec. 17. He will play for the NLEX Road Warriors, and most expect him to flourish with veteran coach Yeng Guiao guiding him.
Since taking over, the fruits of Guiao’s labor finally materialized during the PBA Governors’ Cup. Taking in some former players like Larry Fonacier, Cyrus Baguio, and J.R. Quinahan, the Road Warriors run was halted only in the quarterfinals. They were booted out by the Star Hotshots.
Looking ahead, there is no place to go up for coach Yeng and his boys. With key players in place, Ravena is considered one of the future players who may eventually be the face of the franchise. And apparently, Guiao knows it.
“We’re seeing positive things. Matalino naman siya,” Guiao said of Ravena in an interview with the Philippine Star. “Naiintindihan niya ang concepts namin, madali niya ma-absorb.”
For a freshman, Ravena has shown in international competitions a different kind of maturity rare among neophytes. Against PBA vets, it will be interesting if he can maintain his focus.
As most know, the pro ranks are much more robust. Ravena is expected to get his share of bumps and rough plays, mainly from the enforcers of other teams. He will find himself matched up against proven guards. That includes the likes of Chris Ross, Ronald Tubid, and Jericho Cruz. These are only some of the no-nonsense players that the former Ateneo Blue Eagle will be up against, a test he should pass with his high basketball IQ.
Aside from those players, he needs to understand the need to be a leader on the court. Though a rookie, Ravena needs to exemplify the same qualities he did for Ateneo and Gilas stints. It will not be easy, but most expect him to break out at some point. Will that be in the PBA Philippine Cup?
A lot depends on the playing time he will get. Coach Yeng will have the last say on that. For Kiefer to be used extensively, he needs to sustain his on-court brilliance each time he takes the floor. It is a whole new ballgame for Ravena, a new test to see just how “Phenom-enal” he can be on the hardwood.