Becoming his own man
Ateneo forward Thirdy Ravena and coach Tab Baldwin have spent so many hours in gyms, camps overseas and UAAP battles over the last few years that the King Blue Eagle couldn’t exactly pinpoint the moment when his mentor gave him the best advice for someone caught in his predicament.
The middle child of an athletically gifted family, Thirdy had long been in the shadows of older brother, Kiefer, who won two UAAP crowns with Ateneo, and father, Bong, a former PBA Rookie of the Year, who now coaches TNT KaTropa in the PBA.
“Ever since coach Tab came in, he talked to me,” recalled Thirdy after averaging 24.5 points, six rebounds and five assists in Ateneo’s sweep of the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers in the Season 82 finals that capped the Eagles’ perfect season at Mall of Asia Arena on Wednesday.
“He told me that the biggest pressure shouldn’t be trying to be like my brother or my dad, but coming from myself and be the best player I could possibly be. And with that, I think I effectively removed myself from my brother’s shadow to be the best player I could possibly be, not just for myself but for my teammates.”
Those words resonated with Thirdy, who was cut due to academic deficiencies following his rookie year and worked tirelessly to improve his game.
Thirdy spent the offseason developing his skills and bulking up for the highly physical and intense battles in the UAAP.
The past three finals have been a showcase of Thirdy’s ability to deliver his finest games when the stakes are at their highest.
When the Eagles badly needed a catalyst or a go-to-guy, Thirdy willingly took the cudgels.
“I don’t want to say that by the end of the season, I didn’t give my all,” said Thirdy.
In his last three finals games, including the title clincher, against University of the Philippines in Season 81, Thirdy scored 38, 32 and 17 points—all team highs.
His back-to-back baskets late in Game 2 gave the Eagles breathing room to weather the Growling Tigers’ late uprising.
“For me, it’s not even about accomplishments,” said Thirdy, who did not even make the mythical five this season as his numbers dipped in the elimination round with Baldwin extending his rotation.
“It’s about trying to work for something and not trying to be like someone. I’m just trying to be the best version of me.”
But Thirdy feels the perfect season and three-peat will never be just about him.
For one, this was also a glorious send-off for fellow seniors Mike and Matt Nieto, Isaac Go and Adrian Wong, whom Baldwin all paid tribute to after the victory against UST.
“They’re special,” said Baldwin. “That word doesn’t cut it. They’re incredible guys. I truly mean it when I say it. When I came here four years ago as a coach, as a human being, there were a lot more holes in me than there are today. And I can’t say anything better because these five guys filled a lot of those holes. And so for that, I thank them.”
The departure of the graduating players will definitely leave a huge void and Baldwin has a tougher task compared to recent seasons to keep the dynasty going, although sophomore SJ Belangel, the fearless backup playmaker who nailed nine treys in the finals, has shown he can handle the leadership mantle.
For Thirdy, however, he will never be just the brother of Kiefer or the son of a former PBA star. He has carved his name in the annals of collegiate basketball and left a lasting legacy on Katipunan.