Thirdy Ravena brings his talents to the Japan B League. That’s the biggest sporting news headline in the country last week. This transaction, among multiple international offers dangled his way, was the reason why Ravena skipped the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Draft last year. Thirdy wanted to assess his talent potential in the global scale before taking his acts to the PBA.
I believe this move is brilliant not just for the younger brother of the Phenom, Kiefer Ravena, but also for local hoops in general. Other than a higher potential earning capacity, it is the exposure to international professional competition that would make the Filipino baller improve his skills that would ultimately benefit the national cause.
Ravena could have done the traditional path to get himself drafted by the PBA and ply his trade in local hoops but would he truly tap his full potential by sticking to play in local soil? I don’t think so. His skill set might just stagnate in the PBA. Thirdy is just 23 years and has the talent to excel on the international stage. The competition he will be facing in the B League would be bigger and deeper relative to what he will compete within the PBA. His exposure in Japan will also get him more accustomed to the FIBA style of play which will be very useful when he fulfills his duties with the Gilas national team.
San-En NeoPhoenix, the team that signed the services of the former Ateneo wingman, will most likely play Thirdy in the 2 spot and perhaps play some minutes at the point and his exposure here will not conflict with what his role would be for Gilas. At 6’2, he may be a bit small to defend a FIBA wingman but Thirdy has his dad’s (former pro Ferdinand) natural athletic ability and the scientifically developed body honed under the watchful eye of veteran international and multiple UAAP titled coach Tab Baldwin.
This deal is a win-win situation for Thirdy. He gets to test his skills in a high level international professional league in a short one-season contract. He is not tied up to a long term deal which keeps his options for other pro leagues, the PBA included, open for next year. Coach Tab will surely keep an eye on the progress of his prized college star so advise guidance, and coaching won’t be too far away for Thirdy. If he shows he can compete with the best in the B League, the younger Ravena will certainly have more offers once he becomes a free agent.
Will the trend of collegiate blue-chip players skipping the PBA for bigger leagues abroad be the new norm? Bobby Ray Parks did that by way of the Asean Basketball League for a few years before settling for short term deals in the PBA while homegrown talent Kai Sotto has already committed to play in the NBA G League. If the University of the Philippines offer did not come, Kobe Paras could have played professionally abroad too.
I am quite happy that the Philippines is starting to get recognized as a potential source of hoops stars in the region. Kudos to the Gilas program for elevating the status of play in the country and for the PBA being unselfish in lending players to the program. Without this synergy, we would not be a threat to the traditional powerhouses of Asian basketball. If Kai Sotto, our best chance to have our first ever homegrown NBA player, delivers well in his G League stint, we would have a bonafide athlete in the highest level of basketball in the world.
Philippine basketball is humming. I understand that these foreign professional leagues may rob the PBA of some blue-chip local players but it will definitely benefit Philippine basketball in general. There will be a domino effect in that the local players will strive harder to get the attention of international scouts with the hopes of getting international exposure. In the event that their foreign sojourns do not work well for them, the PBA will always be there to ensure that they have a good long career in local soil.
The PBA’s loss will be Gilas Pilipinas’ gain. Sotto, Ravena, Parks, and perhaps even Paras, AJ Edu and even Justin Baltazar (6’7 Dela Salle center) would have gained more international ball experience prior to the 2023 World Cup that will make our roster more diverse, more flexible, more adept to the international game. The seeds coach Tab has planted starting with his Ateneo athletes are starting to bear good fruit and I am quite excited to see how we will put up a good show when we host the Worlds in 2023.
PBA Selection in the Asian Pro Leagues?
To continue elevating the level of play in the PBA, why not send a selection of our best professional players to any of the Asian pro tournaments? The San Miguel Corporation has teams in the ASEAN Basketball League and the PBA and I would be very interested to see an SMC selection participate in the B League or even the Chinese Basketball Association.
This is easier said than done because we are talking about the players having to split time with their mother clubs and the PBA selection. It is, however, a good way to get more exposure in the international brand of play that would elevate our status further in the basketball realm. A team composed of Jio Jalalon, Mark Barroca, Paul Lee, Ian Sangalang, June Mar Fajardo, Marcio Lassiter, Terrence Romeo, Stanley Pringle, Japeth Aguilar, Scottie Thompson and backstopped by two imports is a decent national caliber team that can compete well already in other Asian pro leagues.
This proposal will work well only if the PBA decides to condense their season. Most international professional leagues make do with a 6-7 month tournament duration while the PBA plays at most 11 months in a year. If the PBA decides to shorten its window, the avenue to develop more players in the offseason will allow for a bigger pool of talent that the national team can choose from.
Who says a nation whose average height is 5’5 can not do well in the sport of giants?
(The writer is a senior leader in the Business Process Outsourcing industry managing Philippine countryside operations)