He’s only been a professional basketball player for over a year, but Thirdy Ravena is already aware of the legacy he will leave behind when he hangs up his shoes.
“It’s a great feeling to be the first here,” a beaming Ravena said Wednesday.
“Here” is the B.League in Japan, where Ravena signed as an Asian import for the San-En NeoPhoenix last year. It was a bet for Ravena, who almost certainly would have been one of the PBA’s top draft picks had he chosen to go down that route.
It was also a bet that didn’t pay off right away. One of UAAP’s most enduring players during his days with Ateneo de Manila University, Ravena was limited to just 18 games in his debut season after a bout with COVID-19 as well as hand injuries and knee.
But the NeoPhoenix re-signed him “for several years” last May, and grateful Ravena has since expressed her desire to take the organization to new heights.
“I am motivated by the trust that the organization has placed in me, with the NeoPhoenix,” he said.
“So I really do whatever it takes to show them how grateful I am, and at the same time, to represent the country in what I do,” he added.
This season, however, Ravena won’t be the only player to hoist the Philippine flag in the B. League. He opened the door in 2020 and since then more and more Filipino stars have signed on to play for Japanese clubs, including his own older brother Kiefer who is now an import for the Shiga Lakestars.
Last weekend, Shiga and San-En faced off in a two-game series that the B.League called a “sibling rivalry.” Fittingly, the Ravenas split their first two games, with Kiefer and Shiga winning on Saturday and Thirdy and NeoPhoenix fighting them back the next day.
Next Saturday and Sunday, Ravena will play against another Filipino – her childhood pal, Kobe Paras, who now plays for Niigata Albirex. During the season, he will also play against Javi Gomez de Liano (Ibaraki Robots), Dwight Ramos (Toyoma Grouses) and Bobby Ray Parks Jr. (Nagoya Diamond Dolphins).
Two other Filipinos – Kemark Carino (Aomori Wat’s) and Juan Gomez de Liano (Earthfriends Tokyo Z) – play in Division 2.
“It’s an even greater feeling to see people come in after you leave, after you’ve opened the door for them,” Ravena said of the influx of Filipino players into the B.League. “Kasi nga, that’s something bigger than me, you know?”
“I can do all kinds of stats, I can do great things, but what legacy would I leave behind? That would always be a question,” he added. “I felt like I was able to respond fairly quickly after my first year.”
Ravena is delighted to see more Filipino players – most of whom have been her teammates at one point – join the B.League. He’s also delighted to see that it’s not just Filipino basketball players who have been hired as importers in the Japanese leagues: Jaja Santiago (Saitama Ageo Medics) and Bryan Bagunas (Oita Miyoshi) have been playing in the V.League since. several seasons now, and Marck Espejo is making FC Toko his next step.
Two Philippines – Sarina Bolden (Chifure AS Elfen Saitama) and Quinley Quezada (United Chiba) – are part of the pioneer WE League of Japan, the elite of women’s football in the country.
Yet Ravena also knows that as more Filipinos spread their wings abroad – to Japan and beyond – attention will also turn to him as the player who paved the way for athletes. local.
It is a responsibility that Ravena does not take lightly.
“Ang laking responsibility ‘yun, especially nga na ikaw’ yung nauna. You always want to show na talagang kayang-kaya, you want to stay strong,” Ravena said.
“Kung mag-break down ako dito sa Japan, that might not be a good idea for the other guys who look up to us, the younger generation, who might be considering playing overseas,” he said. he noted.
This task – staying strong – has not always been easy. Ravena called her first year in B.League a “roller coaster”. The COVID-19 pandemic did not allow him to easily join San-En, and he was not given a preseason before starting to play with the team.
Just as he was starting to get into a groove, he tested positive for the coronavirus. And when he returned from his forties, he suffered a hand injury that required surgery, knocking him out for three months.
“Marami kang pagdadaanan dito sa Japan, both on and off the pitch,” he said. “It’s going to be a roller coaster ride, but at the end of the day you want to stay strong for all the basketball players.”
“Pati ‘yung mga gustong pumunta hindi lang sa Japan, but also internationally,” he added.
“To be called this name (pioneer) is a responsibility, and I feel that ginagawa ko naman ‘yung makakaya ko has to live up to that name and keep moving forward and keep paving the way for all. Filipinos. “
The influx of Filipino athletes into Japanese professional leagues is just the beginning. Ravena pointed out that Gilas Pilipinas Women star Jack Animam is making his way playing in the Serbian Professional Women’s League. Kai Sotto, of course, is expected to compete for the Adelaide 36ers in Australia’s National Basketball League.
There are also players of Filipino descent in the NBA in Jordan Clarkson and Jalen Green, and several Filipino players compete in various football leagues all over the world.
Ravena expects the Filipino cages to play in Korea soon as well, after the Korean Basketball League opened its doors to more Asian imports.
“I keep saying it,” Ravena said. “The Philippines is for the world.”
“Hindi lang tayo meant sa loob ng Pilipinas, but as people, marami tayong kayang gawin. We are actually good at a lot of things,” he said.
“Just seeing all of these things come to life is a wonderful feeling for me. And I’m sure the Filipino community takes great pride in supporting and watching all of these athletes play overseas.”
Thirdy Ravena talks about being a trailblazer. Video courtesy of VivaMax.