It was opening day of UAAP Season 74, and the defending champion Blue Eagles were matched up against their Final Four opponents from last season, the Adamson Falcons. Debuting was a 7 footer from Cebu Greg Slaughter, but in reality, Greg wasn’t even the megastar people were waiting to set foot in the UAAP Seniors Division. All eyes were on a Phenom by the name of Kiefer Ravena.
The Blue Eagles won versus the Falcons, 55-51, but there was something wrong. Kiefer’s debut game saw him attempting ONE shot, and missing it. This was impossible, as a talent like him was expected to contribute right away. Even in high school, he was already a key cog of the Blue Eaglets as a 14-year old kid. Was it first game jitters? Was it a case of him being overhyped by the fans and the media? Nobody saw this coming. The talks grew louder as the Blue Eagles prepared for their next game, their bitterest of rivals, the De La Salle Green Archers.
Back in the Filoil preseason tournament, the Green Archers beat the Blue Eagles twice. They were parading a rookie class that included behemoth Arnold Van Opstal and talented Red Cubs in Ponso Gotladera and Dan Sara. They were no pushovers and were expected to contend for the title in the upcoming season.
The green-and-white faithful were merciless. After all, seeing the supposed phenom of your opponents’ basketball program fizzle out under the bright lights must have been some kind of schadenfreude for them. Labels of “bust” and “overrated” soon filled social media, and it was time for Kiefer to put up or shut up.
If I were the one who needed to prove myself in front of 15,491 fans, I would have cried and looked for my mother there and then. But I am no phenom. I am not Kiefer Ravena. On this day, he silenced his critics and became a man.
The lights were bright. The crowd was loud. The stakes were high. The young guard had to do something outstanding for him to recover from his dismal debut.
He was put on the starting lineup, and opened Ateneo’s scoring with six straight points. Just like that he was here. There was no stopping him, as the water continued to flow.
It did not matter who was guarding him. He brushed off graduating senior and team captain Simon Atkins. He took Joshua Webb to school. La Salle did not have an answer to Kiefer. It did not matter if his baskets came from under the basket, mid range pullup jumpers, or three point attempts. He was firing from everywhere on the court. He finally showed why he was the most sought-after recruit coming out of high school. It showed, as the then-first year guard had swagger in him that game. Not necessarily yabang (as it was not permitted by Coach Norman Black’s system), but a certain confidence that says “Don’t sleep on me”.
Kiefer only scored two points in the second half, but his 22 point outburst in the first half helped Ateneo take its first matchup of the year against their archrivals, 81-72. As if that was not enough, he also grabbed 10 rebounds and pickpocketed the La Salle offense five times. He was not just a scorer, but he showed he was a multifaceted player who can do anything on the court.
This was the first of many highlights of his career. Kiefer would go on to win two championships and two MVPs, and cementing himself in the Ateneo basketball hall of fame.
Kiefer has shown us that in the face of adversity, he knows how to pick himself up, and show the world why he is a big deal. You can bet your bottom that on August 24, 2019, he will do the exact same thing.