Japan B. League

Kiefer Ravena: Loving the Lakestars life

Lionel Piguet, Jennifer M Uy Piguet
Kiefer Ravena: Loving the Lakestars life

TIME OUT. Kiefer Ravena enjoys the scenic view in Shiga, home to Japan's largest lake.

Lionel Piguet

‘If ever a team – hopefully Shiga again – would have me back here and with everything settled, I’d love to come back here,’ says Kiefer Ravena

SHIGA, Japan – Kiefer Ravena has stepped out of his comfort zone, perhaps way faster than even he would imagine, as he finds himself loving the life and new challenges with the Shiga Lakestars.

Shiga, home to Japan’s largest lake and one of the very few prefectures surrounded only by mountains, has certainly welcomed its talented new resident as Ravena already enjoys fan support just a few months after his Japan B. League debut. 

Since following his brother Thirdy in the league’s top division, Ravena has not only become a Filipino food ambassador among his teammates, but also won the hearts of Japanese fans with his professionalism and phenomenal play.

What’s a typical day like for you in Shiga, particularly on non-game days?

Most of the time, after I wake up, I call my parents, just to see how everything goes, to start the morning. Then I practice till midday before I go out to have some coffee – taking my time, spending two to three hours just being out there, withdrawing my mind off basketball a bit.

Then I will probably eat somewhere – again just to relax and think about other stuff, or sometimes I will work with the things that I left back home. 

At night, if we’ll practice early in the next morning, I will go to bed earlier. If not, I might watch a movie or catch up at a series I’ve been watching on Netflix or HBO. You know, things like that. 

Coach Luis (Guil Torres) told us to really take our mind off basketball when we are having days off, for at least a day. Basketball is such a technical sport. You’ve got a lot of things in mind and a lot of emotions. So when it comes to days off, I try to really listen to what he says, to take my time and my mind off basketball a bit.

What is the most difficult part of an import‘s life? 

Probably just being away from the family. I would say that’s the biggest part, you know. Sometimes back home, after a bad game, bad loss, you had your family to comfort you physically. You got to talk to them, you got to see them. 

Up here, all the imports in Shiga, we don’t have our family with us here. It’s difficult especially for those who have a very big time difference when it comes to talking back home. I don’t have a problem, since it’s just an hour difference. But again not everybody has this luxury. So I guess if I could speak on their behalf, I would say it’s being away from the family.

After a few months of playing in Japan, do you find anything different with the way pro leagues are run back in the Philippines?

Actually it’s really the same when it comes to basketball. There is so much involved: how to take care of yourself, how to be really professional, and how you carry yourself on and off the court. 

For me, professionalism is very big, and I see it every day here. I admire my teammates so much cause we are a very, very young team, yet everybody shows up, ready for practice – even on losses, bad games or tough times. I admire them and that’s how basketball should be, anywhere else in the world.

Have you adjusted to life in Japan?

I’m just grateful for the opportunity being given to me here. It’s amazing for me to be part of this [Shiga Lakestars] family, this organization. That’s why I chose this team. I was looking at how the city is. It’s just beautiful. 

Even back at my home I can still see it, the lake and everything. And of course being here, having a first-time experience of how Shiga is, it’s really humbling, and the people are great. They are awesome. You know, I am just happy to be here.

I am a very simple person – just being here with the people, just being here with my teammates most of the day, and allowing myself to embrace this organization – that has helped me a lot and made me feel like home, to be honest. 

I got my own house and am living by myself. One good thing is that we’re living in a world full of technology, where a phone call to my home is very easy and simple to do. I get to see my parents every day even though I live by myself. It’s wonderful. I can’t thank this organization enough. 

My only “problem” is not being satisfied with our performance day in, day out. We just have to learn every single time. With the process of learning, there will be losses and there will be victories. In the meantime, we just have to take it one day at a time, and be positive every single day.

Did you experience culture shock?

There wasn’t a cultural shock since it wasn’t really my first time to be here. I already had experience of how Japanese people are, how the culture is. 

I guess it’s just me really immersing myself, to feel the culture and how people are, how respect is a big part of their culture. Just keeping an open mind. 

Probably one thing though, sometimes, the communication part. But then again you know, the good thing is we’re playing a sport that has a universal language. Everybody understands basketball terms, so it wasn’t that hard for me as everyone would have expected.

Have you gotten used to the tough weekend schedule?

Well I guess the concentration comes from every start of the week when you prepare for the games you will be playing. You can’t just concentrate on the day itself. It comes with the preparation: what you do before the games, or even just going to the games, you know, having that mental toughness and focus especially on the second day of a back-to-back. 

Sometimes it’s not even a 24-hour interval – you play at 5 pm on Saturday and 2 pm the next day. That’s less than 24 hours of recovery. You just have to think that it’s not just you who is doing it, there are lot of players doing it. It’s what the whole league is like. 

You can’t have this excuse for yourself like “I am tired” while everybody else is tired. You’re on the same team and facing the same opponents after all. Nothing’s gonna change too much in 24 hours when it comes to strategy, game plan or technical stuff. It thus depends on which team can execute better, and how you can be mentally tougher than your opponents, on the second day of a back-to-back.

How does the team get together after losses, or how do you bond with them?

Every now and then I would invite different guys for dinner. I have Filipino food back home, I would cook for them something very light, something very easy to let them know my culture. 

Back home, the Japanese culture is very well accepted: There are a lot of Japanese restaurants and Japanese people in the Philippines. Being able to share my roots is a very big thing for me. 

Just hanging out with them after practice is also good, even at the therapy room. You know, just conversing with them, having a good time even though we sometimes wouldn’t understand each other and end up playing charades, acting out different things just to talk (laughs). Those are the small things that help us in the long run.

If you have a chance to play again for Shiga or elsewhere in Japan, would you take the opportunity, maybe after your PBA contract is up?

Oh yeah, for sure! You know playing overseas had always been a dream, and it’s already a dream come true for me. 

If ever a team – hopefully Shiga again – would have me back here and with everything settled, I’d love to come back here. I’d love to play here in front of the crowds. I have fallen in love with the place. I guess it’s really true when they say there is no place like home. That’s how I feel about this place now.

So Shiga feels like home now?

I’d say yes. For me, I’ve embraced it. As I said, I’ve fallen in love with the people, I’ve fallen in love with the city. I’m feeling very comfortable up here. It’s amazing.

– Rappler.com