Dwight Ramos (top) and Thirdy Ravena assume mantle of leadership. —FIBA.COM

Dwight Ramos and Thirdy Ravena have embraced their roles as the new leaders of Gilas Pilipinas, leading the Filipinos to a 1-1 card at the end of the second window of the Fiba (International Basketball Federation) Asian World Cup Qualifiers on Sunday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.

They were key in an 88-64 conquest of India last Friday before combining for 41 points in an 88-63 loss to New Zealand, which coach Chot Reyes said was still a moral victory for the country’s national cage program.

“First of all, I was very proud of the effort of our guys. We played a tough team. We didn’t back down. We kept ourselves in the ball game until I think late in the third quarter,” Reyes said after the loss to the Tall Blacks.

“But like I said, couldn’t ask for anything more from our players. I thought they came in, and they executed. And credit also to New Zealand, they were able to pick apart our defensive schemes, and that’s how it got reflected,” he added.

Tom Vodanovich and Dion Prewster led the way for the Tall Blacks, scoring with impunity in that stretch that Gilas intended to mount its comeback. They ended up with 20 points each.

“We’re slowly transferring that mantle of leadership from Gilas players of the past to these two guys now,” Reyes said of the two young guns, who took a break from their club duties in Japan to heed the call of the flag here.

“Because like I’ve said, this is a long-term program. We’re preparing for next year and beyond,” Reyes added.

Ramos had 17 points in the win against India, with Ravena shooting 15. After two games, Ravena led the team in scoring with an average of 19 points and Ramos a close second with 17.5.

But the pair knows that it ought to do more from here on.

“Definitely motivating for me. Just definitely a big responsibility trying to transfer that leadership from the older generation to our generation,” Ramos told the Inquirer.

“I’m just looking to become better and then learn, trying to see what I could get better at,” he added.

His pal, Ravena, is just as eager to relish such a privilege.

“Whenever they give you that responsibility, you have to shoulder it, make the most out of it because it’s something bigger than yourself,” he said.

“It’s not something that should be taken lightly,” Ravena added.

Ramos and Ravena’s ascent as the national team’s cornerstones actually fulfills Reyes’ vision from years ago. The two, along with Robert Bolick, were part of a pool of project players that basketball leaders hoped would comprise the pool for the World Cup. INQ

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