Thirdy embraces role of pioneer

San-en’s Thirdy Ravena. NEOPHOENIX PHOTO

Largely recognized as a pioneering figure for Filipinos plying their trade in Japan, Thirdy Ravena said he is beyond grateful that he has opened doors.

“I thought I was going to help one person out and it eventually led to this whole thing where people actually think about Japan [whenever they are] thinking about going pro,” he said during a B.League Finals watch party held at Titan Fort in Bonifacio Global City on Saturday.

Ravena, a swingman out of the celebrated Ateneo Blue Eagles program, was the first Filipino player to be tapped as an import by a B.League club under a landmark Asian Players Quota system two years ago.

Since then, a bevy of young, top-flight have followed the same path: Older brother and NLEX playmaker Kiefer, former TNT two-way star Ray Parks Jr., Gilas standout Dwight Ramos, UP stalwarts Kobe Paras, Javi and Juan Gomez de Liaño, and San Beda big man Kemark Cariño.

“It’s an amazing feeling. Hopefully, there are more who could come up and experience what Japan is like. The courts, as well, are very beautiful, so I’m excited [about] the next generation,” said the younger Ravena.

Choice destination

The wait, it seems, won’t have to be that long. Earlier this week, La Salle’s two-way star Justine Baltazar inked a deal with a Japanese team. Ricci Rivero, who is coming off a championship run with the Fighting Maroons, is reportedly considering multiple offers abroad, including one that would also send him to the Land of the Rising Sun.

Japan’s B.League has become a destination for both talents fresh from the varsity level and young pros because of the bigger paydays there.

Ravena averaged 11.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.0 steals for San-en NeoPhoenix, missing just a few games this season, which was already a vast improvement from his first stint with the club.

Even making things better, Ravena said, is having all these fellow Filipinos around.

“[T]hat just motivates you to elevate your game and gets you a little bit more challenged especially when you’re playing against them,” he added.

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