AFTER more than a year on the sidelines following his suspension of FIBA over his failure to pass a random drug test, Kiefer Ravena was back practicing with Gilas Pilipinas on Monday night. It was something he said he was very thankful for and looks to build on as he restarts his basketball journey.

“I would like thank God that now I’m back here practicing with the national team,” said Mr. Ravena, 25, in the vernacular, as he met members of media following his first practice back at the Meralco Gym.

“My feeling right now is like a child who had his toy taken away from him and it was given back. I was very anxious as this day approached. I’m very ecstatic to be around [national team] Coach Yeng [Guiao] and the coaching staff,” he added.

Mr. Ravena was suspended by FIBA after testing positive for three ingredients prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency in May last year.

The prohibited substances — 4-methylhexan-2-amine(methylhexaneamine), 1,3-dimethylbutylamine (DMBA), and higenamine — was found in the pre-warm-up supplement that Mr. Ravena took prior to the Gilas game against Japan at the Mall of Asia Arena on Feb. 25, 2018 during the second window for the qualifiers in the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

Urine samples were taken from Mr. Ravena after and both turned out to be positive from the prohibited substances.

Said substances, however, are not illegal in the country and can be bought over the counter but are prohibited under the WADA list.

The suspension meant no basketball activity for the former Ateneo King Eagle, including for his mother ball club in the Philippine Basketball Association, the NLEX Road Warriors.

Mr. Ravena shared that his time away from competitive basketball was a tough one to bear but he was able to manage it with support from many different people who stood by him.

He said he kept himself fit so when the time comes that he is back in action he would not skip a beat that much.

“Physically I’m okay. I told you I’ll surprise a lot of people on how I’ll look and how I’ll play. I’ll continue to prove that. I won’t stop from here. This is just the start, something to continue my story, of the journey I had all throughout the 16 months that I’ve been suspended. I think everybody’s been part of the journey,” he said.

Now back practicing with Gilas, and later on with NLEX, Mr. Ravena said it is like starting all over again.

“It’s a very interesting situation for me right now. I’m kind of in a new environment so to speak. I’m eager to expand my knowledge of the system I already know as well as to be around my teammates,” he said.

Mr. Ravena said he does not expect anything to be handed to him in Gilas now that he is back and that he intends to work his way back, even if the likes of Jayson Castro, Ray Parks Jr. and Scottie Thompson have already begged off for varying reasons to be part of the team seeing action at the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup later this year in China.

“To be mentioned to be included in the lineup is a confidence-booster for me. But everybody’s still fighting for a spot,” he said.

Monday’s practice was the third for Gilas since it began preparing last week.

Thirteen players were present, namely, Mr. Ravena, June Mar Fajardo, Paul Lee, Roger Pogoy, Marcio Lassiter, Japeth Aguilar, CJ Perez, Mark Barroca, Robert Bolick, Poy Erram, Troy Rosario, Raymond Almazan and Stanley Pringle.

Naturalized player Andray Blatche is set to join the team beginning next month. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo