MANILA, Philippines – Kiefer Ravena's first game in an NLEX uniform did not end in their favor, as he and the Road Warriors bowed to ABL champions Hong Kong Eastern, 98-85, in a tune-up game on Thursday.
Ravena, the second overall pick in the 2017 PBA Rookie Draft, had some bright moments, particularly in the third quarter when he helped the Road Warriors stay within striking distance.
In the end, however, Hong Kong simply had too much firepower, with Christian Standhardinger teaming up with Tyler Lamb to help the ABL squad pull away.
"First game as part of NLEX, talo," Ravena said afterward. "You know, a lot to improve on, on my part and the team's behalf."
For Ravena, the tune-up showed that NLEX is "far away from where we want to be" heading into the PBA Philippine Cup in December.
"But we'll be ready by December 17," he promised.
Ravena, who formally signed a lucrative deal with the NLEX franchise on Thursday, has been doing all he can to fast-track his adjustment to the PBA.
Even as his coaches and teammates note that he has been "PBA-ready" for quite a while now, the former Ateneo superstar still made it a point to report to NLEX early.
"One week before the draft," he said. "Nag-practice na ako dito ng Wednesday... to make up for lost time, and to make my transition a bit faster and smoother, when real practice time comes."
Ravena, a two-time UAAP MVP with plenty of international basketball experience, does not anticipate a tough transition to the PBA culture. After all, he has been exposed to the league all his life, as his father Bong was himself a professional basketball player.
"You just have to be mature," he says. "'Yun talaga ang pinakaimportante dito. Kasi in college, you get away with a lot of things. You play with younger guys if you're the senior."
"But here, you play against much bigger, stronger, older, and more intelligent guys," he pointed out. "More mature guys, with a lot of experience. So you have to counter that with a lot of things to be able to be efficient."
With this in mind, Ravena is ready to keep working. The Road Warriors have high expectations from him, and while he was not able to lead them to a win on Thursday, he hopes to do so soon enough – in a real game this time, not just a tune-up.
"Hopefully, makatulong talaga ako pagdating ng season," said Ravena.
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