“Confirmed. Kiefer Ravena wants to stay with Ateneo.”
Thus read the text of Kiefer’s father, Talk ‘N Text assistant coach Bong Ravena to this writer yesterday morning. It officially puts an end to speculation and uncertainty regarding the valued high school senior’s varsity status next season. After carrying the Blue Eaglets to three successive titles in the UAAP juniors competition, the younger Ravena was mum on his ultimate decision.
Although it sounds belated, it comes from the most authoritative source. Naturally, Ravena has been wooed by other schools, and was reported to have visited the campuses of other schools he was considering going to. Weeks ago, Talk ‘N Text head coach Chot Reyes posted a cryptic message on his Twitter account about “the phenom” staying blue. This sent a huge sigh of relief through the Ateneo community, which is hoping to achieve the rare feat of having won four seniors titles in a row this coming season.
“I wanted it to come from Kief, because it’s his decision,” said the elder Ravena upon his arrival yesterday from Bacolod and Game 1 of the PBA All-Filipino Cup Finals in Victorias City. “We’ve been talking with Ateneo since January.”
Last November, when this writer talked with the Ravenas, they said that much had been said about them, but that nobody had actually talked to them about Kiefer. At that time, Bong said his priority was having Kiefer catch up with his studies, since playing with the Philippine youth team had pulled him out of classes for weeks.
“Let him graduate first, and then we’ll think about it,” Ravena laughed then.
The original plan was for Kiefer to forego his fourth year at Ateneo High School and play in the US, since offers started to come in. But the young guard wanted to go for a UAAP three-peat, and told his parents so. At the same time, he had the opportunity to play for the youth team, and gain valuable international experience. After graduation, Ravena was again considering playing in the US, and his family had already talked with noted trainors like team USA and former Memphis coach Ed Schilling and others. But Kiefer chose to stay in Ateneo.
“Later on, if a good school with a good program in the States comes along with an offer, why not? But Ateneo is the priority,” affirmed Bong, putting his son in the same boat as NU’s Ray Parks, who is young enough to be able to eventually do both.
Kiefer’s heroics were last seen on display in the UAAP-NCA All-Star series, as he came out on top in the duel between his Blue Eaglets and the perennial NCAA juniors champions San Beda Red Cubs. Ravena outshone the spectacular Baser Amer in a virtual shootout, getting the upper hand by hitting the game winning shot, as he has done many times in the UAAP juniors.
Ravena joins a three-time UAAP champion seniors squad that essentially lost only point guard Eric Salamat. Ateneo also gained seven-foot center Greg Slaughter and a few other recruits from powerhouse high schools and the youth team. But knowing Blue Eagles head coach Norman Black, he will focus on Ravena’s defense and gradually work him into the starting line-up. Many outstanding high school scorers became well-rounded players after being handled by Black. And with weight problems besetting former San Sebastain Staglet Ryan Buenafe since after the Blue Eagles’ title run in 2008, Ravena may get a starting spot sooner than expected.
On the academic side, Ravena has until the Ateneo College Entrance Text (ACET) given to athletes (which is later than the regular entrance exam) to pick a course. Having come from the high school, the transition will be easier for him. He will be more familiar with the culture of the school than recruits from other programs. Athletes who have academic problems are also supported with tutors, and are not allowed to play if they have failing grades.
With the confirmation of Ravena, the Blue Eagles have even more reason to be optimistic. National University is celebrating the confirmation of Ray Parks suiting up for the Bulldogs, but even NU athletics consultant Bobby Parks acknowledges that the loss of big man Jewel Ponferrada is something they have to overcome. The junior Parks has seen action against other UAAP schools, but will still be feeling his way around in the early stages of the tournament. De La Salle University is a contender, but is in transition in the second season of coach Dindo Pumaren. University of the East will now be handled by alumnus and multiple PBA Defensive Player of the Year Jerry Codinera and will definitely be making adjustments. And last year’s runner-up Far Eastern University is still reeling from their implosion in the Finals.
Of course, who knows what will happen between now and July? A few more recruits, perhaps a new foreign player or two, and some key injuries, and anything can happen. What is significant is that there is a strong rookie batch to get excited about, and people are talking about college basketball even if it’s the end of the second semester already.
All of this should make for an exciting summer, with all this new talent and energy on display.