(photo credits: An Estrada/En Estrada)
After a semi-lengthy will-he-or-won’t-he drama about which university PH Youth team star Kiefer 'The Phenom' Ravena would be playing for, it looks like the decision is finally made. GMANews.TV reveals that Bong Ravena, former pro and father of the young prospect, has confirmed the younger Ravena’s intention to stay in Ateneo via text message.
Ravena, of course, is one of the most heavily recruited high school players in recent memory. Justifiably so, after leading the Ateneo Blue Eaglets to three UAAP juniors championships and four finals appearances in his four-year HS career. He averaged 26.7 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 2.7 steals in his final UAAP Jrs Finals series. He also led Nokia Team Pilipinas to a 5th place finish at the FIBA Asia U-18 tournament where he was named Best Forward of the tournament and made it to the All-Tournament Team. He averaged 18.6 points, 2.9 assists and 2.6 steals for the PH team.
What does this mean for college basketball? Well, Ravena is joining a stellar recruitment class headed to Loyola this summer. The biggest of them all, literally, is the 7-foot Smart Gilas standout and former CESAFI MVP Greg Slaughter, who is probably enough to ensure that the 3-peat champs remain this year’s favorites all on his own. But also joining the team is former DLSZ standout Gwynne Capacio, who dueled with Ravena in the UAAP Jrs Finals a few years ago. Also expected to be part of the Blue Eagles is former CESAFI Juniors MVP Mark Tallo, a point guard with crazy handles that will take a lot of pressure off of Ravena.
Here’s a little sample of what Tallo can do. If you don’t want to watch the whole video, at least take a look at the sequence at the 1:37 mark of the video to see his ball-handling skills.
That’s a pretty amazing rookie class. A rookie class that’s about to join the core of last year’s championship team that’s only losing one key player in Eric Salamat. Yes, veterans Kirk Long and Emman Monfort are still around. The Blue Eagles’ last golden recruitment class – the trio of Finals MVP Ryan Buenafe, Nico Salva and Justin Chua, who have yet to finish a UAAP season without a championship trophy in their three years of play – are still playing. Frank Golla, Juami Tiongson, JP Erram and Arthur dela Cruz will likely stick around with Team A. Oping Sumalinog is returning after a redshirted season.
This is quite simply, a loaded basketball team. Ravena will likely find minutes with Salamat’s departure, and Slaughter surely will quickly join the starting lineup as rumors have him playing only one season for Ateneo before joining the pro ranks. But that doesn’t leave a lot of minutes for the rest of the young guys. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the new recruits are asked to extend their eligibility through redshirting (like Capacio, who was already enrolled in Ateneo last year but sat out his freshman year).
But it’s a pretty sweet situation for Kiefer. He won’t have too much pressure on him in his first few years, since he’ll have proven veteran talent like Slaughter, Buenafe and Salva on his teams. And by the time the team is ready to hand the keys over to him, whether that comes sooner rather than later, he’ll be surrounded by a pretty solid supporting cast that should be more than capable of helping him compete for the championship year-in, year-out.
As long as he lives up to his nickname.