THIS early, Kiefer Ravena is convinced Gilas Pilipinas’ bid to clinch a Tokyo Olympics berth will be worth it.
“It’s going to be worth it. But again, we have to be real with how the other countries are playing,” Ravena said on Radyo5 92.3 News FM’s Power and Play program hosted by former PBA commissioner Noli Eala.
“We’re grouped with Serbia and the Dominican Republic, and it’s really going to take a lot of preparation to win against those teams,” he added.
In a sudden twist, the nationals’ Tokyo Games dreams were fanned after the FIBA announced last Friday that the Philippines will replace New Zealand in the Olympic qualifying tournament in Belgrade, Serbia from June 29 to July 4.
Citing “the spike in the number of high-performance events and the costs of sending teams abroad,” the Tall Blacks pulled out of the qualifying tourney.
Gilas wound up dead-last among 32 teams, failing to win a single match in the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China.
The Filipino cagers have their work cut out for them to gain the coveted slot in the Olympics set from July 23 to Aug. 8.
Bracketed in Group A, Gilas will square off with world No. 5 Serbia and No. 19 Dominican Republic, needing to win one game to advance to the semifinals.
Italy, Puerto Rico, and Senegal make up the other group.
The 6-foot Ravena, a star playmaker for NLEX in the PBA who has been named skipper of the Gilas team, said beginning its preparations early should boost Gilas’ chances.
“Whether kung sinuman ang ipapatawag, I think it’s better to start as soon as possible,” Ravena said.
“We have to take this blessing as it is, an opportunity na hindi man tayo nakasali noong una pero naibigay pa rin sa atin. Kailangan i-grab talaga natin ito.”
The nationals are also toughening up for the third window of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers set to be held on local soil.
With the schedule of the final leg of the qualifiers hanging in the air, Gilas has broken camp at the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna.
Clark was initially set to host two groups of the qualifiers— Group A where Gilas Pilipinas is bracketed, and Group C.
Three of the countries in those brackets – South Korea (Group A), Australia (Group C), and Hong Kong (Group C) – were included in the government-imposed travel ban as the Philippines tried to contain the spread of the United Kingdom variant of the killer COVID-19.
The government, however, lifted the travel bans on over 30 countries last Jan. 31.
Doha was chosen as one of the hosts of the final leg of the qualifiers, but its hosting was called off due to the outbreak of the new strain of the lethal pulmonary disease.