As promising as a Japan stint may sound, Kiefer Ravena will have to hurdle a lot of legal and procedural obstacles first before being able to step foot in the B.League.
Getting clearance from the PBA is only a small chunk of the process for Ravena, who will also have to get the green light from FIBA before being able to suit up as an Asian Player Quota import for the Shiga Lakestars in the 2021-22 season.
A letter of clearance, according to Book 3, Article 57 of the FIBA Internal Regulations, is issued by the governing body to confirm "that a player is free to transfer internationally" -- which, in Ravena's case, is from the PBA to the B.League.
So what needs to happen for the NLEX star to be able to find a path to Japan?
Based on FIBA rules, a lot will hinge on the Lakestars management, who will have to reach out to the B.League to ask for help in acquiring Ravena. The league will then write to the Japanese Basketball Association (JBA) to facilitate the FIBA request seeking to license the former Ateneo star's services.
FIBA will then process the request and reach out to the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), which will then check with the PBA to see if the league will consent to letting Ravena play in the B.League.
This procedure is standard practice according to SBP President Al Panlilio, who said that PBA teams follow the same protocols when looking to acquire imports whose rights are with their respective mother teams.
"It's common globally. There are a lot of player movements across the world, and FIBA is the avenue for these clearances," Panlilio explained to ESPN5.com. "Normally the clearance [request] comes from the league where the player is headed.
"For example, if we want a player from the Middle East, the team here will write to the PBA, who will send a letter to the SBP, and the SBP will send it to FIBA, and FIBA will send it to the Middle Eastern federation to seek clearance. So in this case, if we follow that logic, it should be the Japan league requesting that clearance," he added. "If there's a Japanese request about Kiefer from FIBA, and FIBA asks us, the SBP cannot say yes or no. Because we have to ask the PBA what their decision is -- are they going to agree or decline or what?"
There's just one problem: no one from the JBA or the B.League has reached out to the SBP in an effort to get the necessary authorization that will let Ravena play in Japan.
"From the SBP point of view, there are no documents that have reached the federation at all at this point," Panlilio said. "The Japanese basketball federation has not reached out."
Commissioner Willie Marcial declined to comment when asked whether or not the Shiga Lakestars or the JBA have reached out to NLEX or the league. The Road Warriors, meanwhile, have yet to respond to inquiries made by ESPN5.com.
This poses a huge barrier for Ravena's B.League bid, especially since he is tied down for the foreseeable future with the Road Warriors after signing a three-year extension September last year.
"Kiefer, in this case, has a live, existing contract. And if I'm just wearing the hat of the SBP, I don't know where NLEX is on that one and I don't know where the PBA is on that now," said Panlilio.
The 27-year-old star's situation is in stark contrast to that of his brother Thirdy, who was not under contract with any team when he signed with San-En NeoPhoenix last year.
"Different circumstances," Panlilio said. "Thirdy had no obligation at all. He was not hooked up with any team or any league."
Ravena's contract with NLEX could also become a bone of contention for FIBA, which has the discretion to grant or deny the letter of clearance regardless of the SBP and the PBA's decision -- as long as there is a request, according to Article 69 of the same rulebook.
"FIBA might even have its own opinion, especially if there's a live contract. You cannot have two contracts," Panlilio remarked. "I don't know whether [the] Japan [team] also understands that he has a live contract. I cannot speak for the Japanese league and the Japanese federation on what they will do, if they know he has a live contract."