MANILA, Philippines – “That kid was meant for greatness.”
As former Blue Eaglets 8-time champion coach Jamike Jarin reminisced about his decorated Juniors basketball and RP Youth coaching stints during the Smart Breakdown Basketball Invitational Coaches Conference, he stumbled upon a story that exemplified a parent’s trust in his son’s coach.
During his 13 years with the Blue Eaglets, Jarin recalled that he saw amazing talent in a 13-year-old that he already wanted to include him in the UAAP juniors roster even though he was just in his freshman year. However, his parents worried that their son will be going up against the big 19-year-olds in the competition.
The 13-year-old's father questioned Jarin because he thought that it was too soon for their son to join his first UAAP Juniors basketball tournament at that age.
"The father said 'Coach, isn't it too soon for him to join the roster? Maybe he can wait for next year,'" recalled Jarin.
The legendary high school hoops coach reassured the parent and reasoned out that the coaching staff saw something special in this 13-year-old, so he should maximize his 4 years of eligibility in the juniors tournament.
"Then the father said, 'sige, kayo na bahala sa anak ko,' (Okay, I'll leave my son up to you)" said Jarin.
"That kid was Kiefer Ravena."
Jarin explained that the story touched his heart because it was former University of the East star and champion PBA player Bong "The Raven" Ravena who approached him and left his son's early career into his hands.
The older Ravena was not just any other parent for Jarin because Bong has been a mainstay in Philippine basketball in the 90's and he has been the assistant coach of the Talk N' Text franchise since 2008.
With Kiefer's mom, Mozzy, also being a volleyball standout for the University of Santo Tomas Golden Tigresses, it was easier for them to understand what it's like to be in Kiefer's shoes.
"Ang maganda diyan (What's nice about it) is that they believed in their son. In fact, they thought he wasn’t ready, but of course, they’re used to hearing and being with coaches throughout their lives [and] they’ve dealt with coaches," said Jarin.
"So they believed in [Kiefer's] coaches. We saw something really special in Kiefer and they just gave away his son to us."
On his freshman year, Kiefer was immediately listed in Ateneo Blue Eaglet's Team A.
He did not disappoint Jarin's expectations as Kiefer was able to lead the Ateneo Blue Eaglets to championships in his last 3 years. His individual contributions were highlighted when he took home back-to-back Finals MVP awards and joined the Juniors Mythical 5 in his last two years.
Kiefer also went beyond the UAAP when he joined 2009 FIBA U-16 Asia Championship, 2010 FIBA U-18 Asia Championship and the 2010 SEABA U-18 Championship where his team won the gold medal over Malaysia.
In his UAAP seniors years, Kiefer stayed in the Loyola Schools and was able to help deliver the last two championships of Ateneo's 5-peat reign, while earing the Rookie of the Year award in 2011. Despite failing to reach the finals in his last 3 years, Kiefer managed to attain back-to-back MVP awards including the one that eluded him in 2010 to University of Santo Tomas rival Kevin Ferrer. (READ: Kiefer Ravena shares MVP trophy with Kevin Ferrer)
The Phenom did not graduate from Ateneo with a championship, but his talents took him to the US when he joined NBA D-League team Texas Legends who signed him as a developmental player. However, Kiefer did not join the NBA D-League draft and returned home to play in the remaining games of Alab Pilipinas in their first year in the ASEAN Basketball League.
Early 2017 might have not been looking good for the former Blue Eagle, but it gave him another chance to be the only player in history who has joined the Southeast Asia Games basketball team and won the gold medal for the 4th straight time. (WATCH: Kiefer Ravena's stepback triple is 'icing' on 4th SEA Games gold)
Kiefer further earned Gilas Pilipinas stints in the 2017 FIBA 3x3 World Cup (WATCH:College rivals Ravena, Teng gear up for FIBA 3x3 World Cup) and the 2017 FIBA Asia Champions Cup, while being part of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers Gilas Pilipinas pool. (READ: Castro believes Ravena will take over as Gilas' starting point guard)
Aside from earning his spot in the Philippine men's basketball team, Kiefer finally took his talents to the pros and has exceeded all expectations by playing a big role in his PBA team, the NLEX Road Warriors. (IN PHOTOS: Kiefer Ravena debuts in the PBA with NLEX)
From scripting his PBA debut with a double-double of 18 points and 12 assists over Kia Picanto, Kiefer's addition to the roster was vital to NLEX's first PBA semis berth in franchise history. (READ: NLEX sweeps Alaska for first PBA semifinals in franchise history)
As of publication time, the NLEX Road Warriors are now even at 1-1 in the best-of-seven semi-finals series of the 2018 Philippine Cup conference.
Looking back at how the Phenom's and his other high school players' career turned out until this present day, Jarin's smile has never been bigger than ever to see them excel in the seniors and the pros.
"Not only Kiefer, pati si Von Pessumal, the others, [it] puts a smile on your face when you see them perform, sila Larry Fonacier. Even those who played in the RP Youth: the Nieto twins, Jolo Mendoza, Jollo Go, Diego Dario, Paul Desiderio, those kids, I love them to death!" exclaimed Jarin. (READ: 'They will always be my children,' says Jarin of homegrown Blue Eagles)
Having touched the lives of many great players of Philippine basketball today, the current National University Bulldogs will always be grateful for the opportunity of coaching them as they have inspired him to a better coach.
"It’s just basketball, 40 minutes, they make all of us better: you coach better because you know that they’re gonna play better." – Rappler.com
More commonly known as “Bee”, Beatrice is a multimedia sports reporter for Rappler, who covers Phillippine sports governance, national teams, football and the UAAP. Stay tuned for her news and features on Philippine sports and videos like the Rappler Athlete’s Corner and Rappler Sports Timeout.