Kiefer Ravena plans to take his talents to Japan, already having come to an agreement with the Shiga Lakestars for the 2021-2022 season.
Of course, "The Phenom" first has to work things out regarding his Uniform Player's Contract (UPC) with NLEX and the PBA and right now, well, those waters are murky.
After that, he also has to get clearance from the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas. He has to fulfill both of those before he could even begin the application process for a Japanese visa.
At present, things are at an impasse - with the Ravena camp already having bid farewell and said thanks even as the Road Warriors and the PBA remain adamant they would enforce the contract he signed.
Whatever the outcome would be, just why is all of this happening in the first place?
Why is Kiefer Ravena, face of the franchise in NLEX and one of the brightest stars of the PBA, trying his luck in Japan?
Well, first things first, just to get it out of the way, suiting up for Shiga is likely a financially sound decision.
Make no mistake, the maximum deal the 27-year-old had signed with the Road Warriors is the dream for majority of Filipino ballers. That pact would pay him P420,000 per month for the duration of three years.
As an Asian Quota import in the B.League, however, he could stand to make more - or at the very least, just as much all while expanding his horizons. According to Japan Times, in 2019, the average annual salary of a Japanese player is around $147,000 or around PHP7,000,000.
It would be safe to say that an import would command more than the average, meaning Ravena could earn at least a monthly $18,000 or P860,000 for the season that usually runs from late September to early May the following year.
So yes, money talks and in this sense, it talks a big game.
However, that is not all there is to it. Finances were a consideration, of course, but just one of many. From the very start, this was all about Ravena turning his dream into reality.
When the surprise partnership was revealed last Wednesday, Thirdy Ravena expressed how proud he was of older brother Kiefer.
"So proud of you brotha," he posted on Instagram. "Your dream of playing overseas has finally come to fruition."
Kiefer had long hoped to showcase his skills outside of Philippine shores.
In 2016, Ravena joined the NBA D-League's Texas Legends as a development player and, ultimately, he fell short of making the cut. Still, that was when Bo Perasol, current coach at UP and his mentor for his last three years in Ateneo, bore witness to his determination.
"Playing overseas has been Kiefer's dream even before he entered the (PBA) Draft. In fact, he spent his own money abroad paying for training fees, board and lodging, and other expenses," narrated the Fighting Maroons mentor. "I know this for a fact because we (UP) trained with him in Vegas during our training camp."
Ravena and Perasol's exits from the Blue Eagles coincided with one another and it just so happened that the next steps in their careers also overlapped.
While still together in Katipunan Avenue, though, Perasol had also felt Ravena wanted to make waves internationally.
"When I was in Ateneo, whenever we get to train in the U.S., he always finds time to scrimmage with some prospective NBA draftees," he shared. "He loves competing with these international players. You could see a glimpse of how he really wanted to maximize his potential."
Even before he was "King Eagle," Ravena was already proving his doggedness. As a 13-year-old, Grade 7 student, he was doing anything and everything he could to prove worthy of a spot on the high school team.
When Blue Eaglets coach Jamike Jarin saw the young point guard's unkempt hair during tryouts, the former made it a point to tell the latter that he liked a no-nonsense buzz cut better.
Lo and behold, the next day, Ravena had shaved his head.
"I told him I liked the buzz cut because you don't have to fix your hair for 10-15 minutes. You could just use that time to go straight to shooting around," recalled Jarin in Filipino. "The next day, there was this kid I couldn't recognize. Then he said, 'It's Kiefer! It's Kiefer!' I asked, 'Why did you cut your hair?' And he answered, 'This is what you want from your players, right?'"
"At that young age, you knew that he would do whatever it took to pursue his dream," he continued.
From then on, Jarin knew Ravena was special, and the former did his best to help the latter spread his wings and fly.
"I was fortunate to coach him from when he was really young. As far as I know, he just wanted to make the varsity team back then," he said, looking back at their four years together in high school and two more in college. "When he was just a kid, I had a front row seat to the special things he had already been doing. So it's not a surprise for me that he's pursuing his dream of playing abroad."
"When he was just 13, I really felt he was going to do a lot of great things here in the Philippines and even internationally," he added.
Kiefer Ravena has already been doing great things here in the Philippines; he is NLEX's face of the franchise and one of the PBA's brightest stars. He has also been doing great things internationally, from his time with RP-Youth to now as the presumptive next captain of Gilas Pilipinas.
At his very core, though, he is a competitor who knows full well he could still be better - and one way to do that is to keep testing his mettle in all arenas, be it locally or abroad.
The mess Ravena currently finds himself in is a nightmare, but he also has quite the experience on how to continue marching forward.
"Life has thrown so many curveballs, perhaps too many at you, yet you always come out stronger," said Thirdy about his older brother.
Whether or not he gets to see action for the Shiga Lakestars in the Japanese B.League, Kiefer Ravena's dream lives on, and would continue to do so until it is realized.