The time is now for Kiefer Ravena to step up as the leader for the young Gilas Pilipinas core, national team veteran LA Tenorio said.
"I'm excited to see Kiefer lead the national team. I think it's his time," Tenorio said on Thursday's episode of The Game on ONE News.
The NLEX star is one of six PBA players headlining a prospective 20-man pool vying to be included in the roster for the third and final window of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers next month.
Tenorio believes Ravena is very much capable of taking on that leadership role sans the likes of other veterans in Gabe Norwood and Jayson Castro, among others.
"I think Kiefer has the characteristics of being a leader. I think this is his opportunity knowing that Jayson and Gabe are not playing," said the Barangay Ginebra star.
Although the 27-year-old guard is actually the second-youngest player among the pros included in the training camp in Laguna, Ravena has the most national team appearances under his belt among all pool members and has been a fixture in FIBA tournaments since 2009.
Ravena's last two stints for Gilas came during the 2019 Southeast Asian Games in Manila and in the first window of the Asia Cup qualifiers in February 2020, where he was named team captain by then interim head coach Mark Dickel.
"I think this is the start of the generation of Kiefer actually leading the national team. And I always talk to Kiefer about how it's not going to be an easy responsibility. All eyes are on him this time," said Tenorio.
Tenorio, who also saw action for Gilas in a gold-medal SEA Games romp in 2019, is also looking forward to seeing Kai Sotto play for the men's team for the first time.
The 7'3" Sotto, according to Tenorio, will certainly give Gilas that much-needed ceiling in the absence of other premier big men against South Korea and Indonesia.
"If I'm part of the coaching staff, I would love to see Kai in our lineup because we lack that height without June Mar (Fajardo), without Japeth (Aguilar), without Christian Standhardinger," noted Tenorio. "And most of the players in the pool right now are his age. So it'll be easier for him to adjust with his teammates."
Other players on Tenorio's must-watch list are naturalized player candidate Angelo Kouame and PBA stars CJ Perez, Roger Pogoy and Troy Rosario.
Tenorio said Kouame has a huge responsibility in manning the middle and has to work with Ravena in leading the team as well.
"I'm excited to see how dominant Ange can be. We need that presence in the paint. And he can also defend smaller guys. His athleticism can provide a big leap for our team," he said.
"He'll have huge responsibility, and I think Kiefer has to work with Ange even though he's younger than Kiefer. Just like what I saw with Jimmy (Alapag), with Jayson, and even me, we worked with our naturalized players Marcus Douthit and Andray Blatche. We really need them."
For the Gilas veteran, the other three PBA stars will certainly make Gilas more potent on both ends of the floor owing to their shooting abilities and aggressiveness.
Perez, a finalist for the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup's Best Player of the Conference (BPC) award, epitomizes the Philippine style of basketball, Tenorio said.
"We know how aggressive CJ is in going to the basket and in defending. He can take it from court to court. That's what we need. That's the style of Philippine basketball, run-and-gun," he noted.
Tenorio also thinks Rosario is due for a breakout after years of diligently serving the national team, while Pogoy is also primed to take on the role of being one of Gilas' older statesmen.
"To be fair with Troy, ever since he played for the national team he's always been present. I think this is his time to show our countrymen what he can contribute for the national team," said Tenorio. "We always compare him to Ranidel (de Ocampo), and I'm excited to see him and RR Pogoy as the vets in the national team."