MANILA, Philippines—Kiefer Ravena's countdown ends on Sunday, when the NLEX guard finally plays a competitive game after a long suspension.
Ravena's ban from FIBA, stemming from the use of banned substances, will be officially lifted on August 24, and on August 25, he will play his first basketball game in more than a year when he takes the court for Gilas Pilipinas in a tune-up against the Adelaide 36ers.
The guard has made no secret of his excitement for his return, even posting a countdown on his Instagram Stories.
"It's been a while," Ravena said earlier this week. "Pero sulit naman. Sulit naman 'yung antay, kasi nahanda ko din 'yung sarili ko na kaya kong makipag-compete ulit sa ganitong klaseng level."
Ravena has been training with the national team since June, and went with them in their training camp in Spain earlier this month.
Head coach Yeng Guiao, Ravena's coach in NLEX, has raved about his conditioning and expressed confidence that the guard will barely miss a beat.
"Kiefer kept himself in really good shape, he worked very hard. He's mentally strong, he has high basketball IQ. So ako sa tingin ko, siguro mangangapa siya, first few minutes, or for a few minutes, but he'll get his game back," Guiao said.
"So, I have high confidence that he can do that. May kaunting adjustment, may kaunting transition, pero once he get going, I think he'll be OK."
Ravena, for his part, is similarly confident in his conditioning and shape, but still wants to keep his return as low key as possible.
"Siyempre, ayaw ko din itaas 'yung expectations ng tao, na baka ganoon din ulit dati, parang hindi nawala 'di ba," said Ravena, the second overall pick in the 2017 PBA Rookie Draft.
"Talagang lay low lang muna, para pagdating ng tune-up game on the 25th na makakalaro na, kaya ko naman sigurong makipag-compete against Adelaide," he added.
The Philippines won the first of its two tune-up games against the 36ers on Friday night, 92-83, with Andray Blatche leading the way.
Sunday's game will be significant in more ways than one, as not only will Ravena make his long-awaited return, but Guiao is also expected to name the "final 12" for Gilas after the contest.
"Hindi ko rin alam kung ano ie-expect ko sa sarili ko," Ravena said. "Siguro 'yung gigil na nasa loob ko after 18 months, hindi ko din alam kung anong kalalabasan nito. So I just have to find the balance, na 'yung intensity pati 'yung pagiging kalma pa din."
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