MANILA, Philippines – Gilas Pilipinas team captain Kiefer Ravena was named as the "Player to Watch" by FIBA ahead of the first window of the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers later this month.
Ravena will lead the Philippine national team when it plays regional rival Indonesia on the road on February 23. Its other assignment, a home game against Thailand, was postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Of Ravena, FIBA said: "(He) only got his first senior national team debut in FIBA competition at the World Cup this past summer where he oozed with potential, despite mixed reactions for his performances."
"He's back once again for the Asia Cup qualifiers and even named as captain of the team for this tour of duty."
They acknowledged that Ravena's numbers in the 2019 FIBA World Cup were "underwhelming," as the NLEX guard only averaged 4.8 points while playing slightly over 17 minutes per game. The Philippines failed to win a single game in its campaign in China, finishing last among 32 teams.
However, they are expecting more from Ravena in the upcoming FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers.
"He will be given more responsibilities and opportunities here at the qualifiers for the Philippines," FIBA noted. "Don't be surprised if he emerges as one of the biggest stars of this first window."
Meanwhile, the website also identified the Philippines' upcoming game against Indonesia as the key match-up in Group A of the qualifiers.
"There might not be a better opportunity than this for Indonesia to steal an upset against the Philippines," FIBA noted. "They will be playing on their homecourt of the Mahaka Arena for a second straight game on 23 February, and having the rowdy fans in Jakarta behind them will be an added boost."
The Philippines has traditionally dominated its match-up against Indonesia. In the 30th Southeast Asian Games last December, a team of PBA stars clobbered Indonesia, 97-70, in the semifinals.
Indonesia will have home court advantage this time around, however, and the Philippines will bring in a much younger team and a new head coach in Mark Dickel.
"Indonesia and coach Rajko Toroman will have their work cut out for them nonetheless, considering the quality of players that the Philippines can continuously put on to the floor," FIBA said.
Aside from the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand, South Korea was also drawn into Group A of the qualifiers.
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website).