UAAP MVP Kiefer Ravena says redemption far from complete

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  • Kiefer Ravena
    Filipino basketball player
UAAP Season 77 MVP Kiefer Ravena of the Ateneo Blue Eagles. (Czeasar Dancel/NPPA Images)
UAAP Season 77 MVP Kiefer Ravena of the Ateneo Blue Eagles. (Czeasar Dancel/NPPA Images)

Ateneo waits. The Blue Eagles will face either NU or UE in the UAAP Final Four. Even for a top seed, mas masaya maglaro kaysa maghintay. If there’s anything basketball players dread, it’s to wait. Waiting is never fun. Waiting leads to more tiring drills, more endless practices. Waiting also leads to thinking or worse, overthinking.

It’s a good thing Kiefer Ravena, recently named UAAP Most Valuable Player, is a busy young man. He can easily find other things to do to keep his mind occupied. Or other things can find him. Although he admits, by design, his schedule is less frantic this season. What did he learn from last season? Singular focus will help him attain redemption.

Winning the MVP award? That’s just part of the task. Now Kiefer waits, his team waits for the chance to complete the quest.

MH: Winning the MVP award, what does it mean to you?

KR: It’s a very sweet victory for me. Coming from last year, ang daming nasabi, ang dami kong narinig. So from last year to this year, it symbolizes the hard work of everyone in the team, from me, to my coaches, to my teammates. Yun yung meaning ng award for me talaga.

MH: With the constant pressure, the amount of attention you expectedly get, and I’m sure nababasa mo rin mga tweets from all kinds of fans, how do you still perform at a level that leads to winning the MVP award?

KR: I put everything in the right place. Hindi lang naman ako. Sineryoso talaga namin yung training namin, yung preparation namin. Kasi maraming nasabi because hindi kami nakapasok ng Final Four last year. Gusto lang namin i-prove sarili namin sa mga tao, sa mga doubters.

MH: Overall stats-points-wise, you finished number one among the players and in the team standings, Ateneo also finished the elimination round at number one. Was this the plan from day one of the season na mag-number-one ka and mag-number-one ang Ateneo?

KR: Actually, dahil nag-number one ang Ateneo, it was a reflection din kaya ako nag-number one. Siyempre kasi, technically, malaki talaga yung dagdag sa statistical points pag nananalo yung team. At the same time, sinabi din sa akin nila Coach Bo (Perasol) na for us to really win, I have to play like a real MVP. We’re really on a mission this year. We want to get back that championship.

MH: When people watch you play, most of the time what they’ll notice are the times when you shoot. So they’ll see you either making or missing shots. And when you miss shots, mas lalong napapansin yun. Maybe mas napapansin yun more than other facets of your game like, say, assists for instance. Does that bother you, that people focus on your offense or maybe just your outside shooting especially during games when you don’t shoot that well?

KR: There will be games na off ka talaga and hindi talaga shu-mu-shoot. Even if I shoot 5 for 28, I’ll really try to get my rhythm back even if sabihin nila na pilit or something. Pero that’s my role on the team. I have to score. If the defense doesn’t think I’m a threat na just because malas ako na hindi na ako titira, then that becomes a positive for the (opponents’) defense. So kahit hindi shu-mu-shoot, at least I put pressure on the opponents’ defense. Kahit paano binabantayan nila ako. Number one naman ako sa assists sa league so hinahanap ko rin yung teammates ko talaga kasi I know it will also open up things for the team if my teammates also produce.

MH: So when people say you’re like the UAAP version of a shot-happy Kobe Bryant who will shoot and shoot even when he’s not making shots, okay lang sa’yo yun?

KR: Oo naman. People say what they want to say. It’s their opinion. We respect it. Alam na natin yan. They are there for a reason and I’m playing for Ateneo for a reason as well. Wala naman, it’s not a problem. You just have to respect their opinion.

MH: You really wanted to focus on the UAAP this year. Was there a conscious effort on your part, or on the part of your parents or your management team to lessen your off-court activities this season?

KR: Actually meron din. Nanggaling din sa akin. I talked to my mom around December of last year. We talked about it. I said UAAP season na naman so as much as possible, yung mga extra-curricular activities kung hindi naman sobrang kailangan baka pwede huwag na muna. Kasi nga I wanted to concentrate on the UAAP and I was afraid baka may masabi na naman yung mga tao. I guess it’s also part of learning, having that experience last year, alam ko na kung ano gagawin. Last year was a blessing din. You can’t do everything at the same time. May tamang oras lahat yan.

MH: So you’re in your fourth year. You know how it feels to win championships. You know how it feels to miss the Final Four. If you go all the way, if Ateneo goes all the way this season, could this be your sweetest season as a basketball player?

KR: Yeah, I think so. Kasi my first two years, with all due respect to the other teams, the whole country expected us to win the championship with Nico (Salva), Greg (Slaughter), Emman (Monfort), Kirk (Long), and everyone else on the team. Pero yung last year, it was supposed to be the year na we could prove that we could win without Greg and Justin (Chua) but we didn’t win. People were saying it was the “dive after five” so if we win this year, it will be a sweet, sweet experience for the team, the seniors Nico (Elorde) and Chris (Newsome), and the whole Ateneo community.

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