By Angelica P. Lim
As the embers of the bonfire have cooled, and remnants of the blue and white confetti are swept away, within the Loyola school grounds a championship glory still lingers. A glory road that began in 2008 has endured through soap operaesque drama, outlasted stubborn opponents, and proved critics wrong. But such is the perseverance and determination of these boys, going back-to-back-to-back, they have triumphed in style, leaving a legacy difficult to top.
High school seniors Von Pessumal, Paolo Romero and Kiefer Ravena now join Randy Sevilla — class of 1985 graduate — as the only Blue Eaglets to have accomplished a three-peat.
While Dumrique will leave the Philippines to join his family in Canada, veteran Blue Eaglets and the RP Youth triumvirate of Ravena, Pessumal, and Romero, stand on the brink of the penultimate of challenges — a league more grueling, more demanding, and more dramatic: a league of the collegiate level.
This is Generation-X, a graduating class regarded among the pinnacle of successful former Blue Eaglets like Jai Reyes, Bacon Austria and Juami Tiongson, a generation so lucrative even Norman Black has taken notice.
Kiefer Ravena: The phenom
Only one of two Eaglets in the last 13 years to break into the Ateneo High School varsity team as a freshman at 13, he dominated against players bigger, stronger, and almost five years his senior in the UAAP junior finals, even emerging as the highest scorer in game two.
When he played for the RP under-18 squad on April 28, 2010, Ravena grabbed headlines by steering his team past a full strength NCAA San Sebastian squad, while exploding with 30 points of his own.
“The thing about Kiefer is that he is always two steps ahead of his team mates, that is why people call him the Phenom,” coach Jamike of the Blue Eaglets says.
Despite being a two-time Finals MVP and three-time UAAP champion, Ravena still carries a humble demeanor: “You have to respect the game,” he says.
Ravena emphasizes that he doesn’t do it for the fame, and that it is the honor of playing for Ateneo. “I do it for three people. First, of course, I do it for God, for Ateneo, and for my teammates,” he says — aspects that he takes with him every time he steps on the court.
With the hype and buzz that accompanies his name, it is hard to believe that “the phenom” has never won a season MVP award. Last year he fell short to FEU’s Terrance Romeo, and this year, to UST’s Kevin Ferrer.
“It was hard at one point,” he admits. “But I had greater things to accomplish, and that was to win the championship.”
After all, winning the Finals MVP is all the sweeter. “A season MVP is never complete without a championship,” he says.
Von Pessumal: Jack of all trades
Whether it is bringing the ball to the front court, threading a pass through, hitting the three, swish fade away or the simple pull-up jumper, Pessumal is armed with an arsenal of skills — he is the jack of all trades, the utility player, and he takes to court all his heart and passion. “I don’t play basketball because of the perks, I play because I love the game,” he says.
As the only full-bred Atenean, this 6’1’’ shooting forward’s journey to the top took a more natural progression. He says, “It’s nice to say that I’ve been in Ateneo, and that I wasn’t recruited just to play basketball.”
Unlike teammates Romero and Ravena, Pessumal has been in Ateneo since prep. Joining the team in the fourth grade, being a part of the championship SBP team, eventually working his way to a coveted spot on the Blue Eaglets as a sophomore.
His progression, however, did not come without difficulties. Pessumal has always had the skill but lacked the confidence. Crediting long-time Eaglet’s mentor Coach Jamike for honing his potential, he says, “ Coach Jamike gave me the confidence to show my true potential (when I) didn’t have the confidence to show it and play myself.”
A true Blue at heart, Pessumal is prepared to complete his journey as an Eagle. “Even if it weren’t for basketball, I would still
Paolo Romero: The Big man
For the Blue Eaglets, Romero is Mr. Reliable, posting double-digits game in and game out, and pulling out that double-double dagger when needed the most. He is the reliable big-man that every team wants; and the big-man that teammates look for when all offensive options have been exhausted.
Recruited from the Claret School of Quezon City in grade school, Romero remembers the difficulty he experienced transferring at a relatively young age. “I wasn’t used to playing basketball at such an intense level,” he says, “I wasn’t used to having practice every day.”
But long ago are those days, and at 6’2,’’ Romero came into the Blue Eaglets as a sophomore. With an impeccable statline of 10.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, his hard work and perseverance has paid dividends. Completing the Ravena-Pessumal trio, Romero has settled into the team comfortably, even impressing national team coaches in the process. He says, “The Blue Eaglets are like family.”
As clichéd as it may sound, it is the lessons Paolo Romero has learned through the game that have resounded with him to this day. “Basketball is the game of life,” the Blue Eaglets center says.
This article appeared on October 15 in PhilStar (the YoungStar section). The pictures were taken from the PhilStar website