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A first by Thirdy

By: - Reporter / @cedelfptINQ
/ 05:20 AM June 25, 2020

Looking outside to further his basketball career, Thirdy Ravena finds a roster spot—and makes history—in Japan’s pro league. —TRISTAN TAMAYO/INQUIRER.NET

A video that surfaced online the past few days shows a pink-haired Thirdy Ravena working tirelessly on his skills at a private gym in San Juan. Using a chair as an imaginary defender, Ravena—sweating and all—takes a couple of crossover dribbles, but instead of surging forward, he takes two steps to his right before rising to swish a jumper from the free-throw line.

Even as Metro Manila is still under general community quarantine, the former Ateneo star has somehow found a way to add moves to his offensive arsenal, while keeping himself sharp and in tip-top shape—a testament to his remarkable work ethic.

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He’ll need that and more as he takes the next big step in his career.

The stage is set for the three-time UAAP Finals most valuable player to take his talents to Japan after signing a one-season deal with San-en NeoPhoenix in the division of the Japanese BLeague.

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First Asian import

It’s a historic move considering that the BLeague is only allowing Asian imports starting next season in October. Ravena, 23, is the first Asian import to be signed by a Japanese club.

“I’m happy to make history,” Ravena told the Inquirer. “I’m not just there to develop as a player, but also to represent the country, which means a lot to me.”

Flying the Philippine flag means so much to Ravena that even though he will be based in Japan, he’s still committed to play for Gilas Pilipinas when he gets a call-up. “It’s a good fit for me,” said Ravena, who spurned several offers from at least three other clubs to sign with a team that won just five of its 41 games in the 2019-2020 BLeague season that was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other offers

Reigning champion Alvark Tokyo and Okinawa are just among the clubs that inquired about Ravena’s availability as soon as it was announced that the BLeague was allowing one Asian import per team.

In fact, a reliable source said Okinawa tendered a more lucrative offer to the 23-year-old guard, who still chose the NeoPhoenix—a team based in the Shizuoka Prefecture just two hours from the capital Tokyo. Details of Ravena’s deal are undisclosed, although the Inquirer learned that imports in the BLeague have a salary range of $10,000 to $20,000 a month (approximately P500,000 to P1 million).

“I think there is less expectation because of the record of the team, but I really

want to come in and do well and be the best version of myself. It’s a really good place for me to develop.”

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Leaving next month

Ravena is set to leave the Philippines for Japan in the first week of July as practices begin on July 15. He still has to undergo the mandatory two-week quarantine upon his arrival in Japan. “When I get there, I need to undergo a two-week quarantine so

that’s something that I also have to overcome,” Ravena said. “I have to stay mentally strong.”

The BLeague season opens in October with Ravena teaming up with Serbian import Stevan Jelovac at San-en, which is coached by another Serbian in Branislav Vicentic.

Ravena said Japan’s proximity to the Philippines was also something he considered when he made the choice. His parents, TNT KaTropa coach Bong and Mozzy Ravena, expressed their full support on the move, although his mother acknowledged the tough task ahead for their son. The Ravena couple are no strangers to sending off a son to chase his basketball dreams.

Eight months

They’ve done that with eldest son, Kiefer, a few years ago when he took his chance of making the NBA D League in the United States. Kiefer

eventually returned to the country and joined the PBA draft in 2017.

Thirdy will need to be in Japan for the duration of the BLeague season, which runs around eight months.

“We fully support his move,” Mozzy said. “Like any parent of an OFW (overseas Filipino worker), we also have our concerns, but we know he’s ready for the challenge there. It’s also a risk because he skipped the [PBA] draft last year.”

Thirdy said his family played a huge part in his decision to play in Japan.

“The reason I picked Japan was because it’s also close to home,” Thirdy said. “My family can visit me if they want to. The travel isn’t that long especially when I’m called up for Gilas. I’m just excited to test myself in Japan.”

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TAGS: Basketball, Japan’s BLeague, NeoPhoenix, Thirdy Ravena
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