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Baptism by fire

Thirdy up for big challenge with his first two games in Japan BLeague

By: - Reporter / @cedelfptINQ
/ 04:04 AM July 14, 2020
Ateneo Final Four

Ateneo star Thirdy Ravena. Photo by Tristan Tamayo/INQUIRER.net

Former Ateneo star Thirdy Ravena is pulling out all the stops to make sure he is at his best as he braces for the toughest challenge of his young career in Japan.

Tasked to lead San-en NeoPhoenix in its path to redemption, the first Filipino to be signed as an Asian import in the Japan BLeague will immediately have his hands full in his debut.

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Ravena’s baptism of fire on Oct. 3 will come against one of the most accomplished ball clubs in Japan in the Chiba Jets, who boast of homegrown star Yuki Togashi and American imports Josh Duncan and Shannon Shorter. The two teams will also square off the following night at Hamamatsu Arena in Shizuoka.

The NeoPhoenix are pinning their hopes on the former three-time UAAP Finals most valuable player as they look to improve on a 5-36 record in the 2019-2020 season that was shuttered by the coronavirus pandemic.

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“I know it’s not the best record, but when you look at it, it can also be a positive for me because there won’t be a lot of expectations and there will be plenty of room for improvement,” said Ravena, who signed a one-season deal with the Japanese ball club.

Ravena is still in Manila, having just received his work permit over the weekend. His mother, Mozzy Ravena, said Thirdy plans to fly to Japan as soon as possible so he could link up with his team, which is expected to start training this week.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty [on the level of the competition] that’s why Thirdy is working harder than ever,” Mozzy said.

Ravena has spent extra hours of skills work, strength and conditioning and cross-training—and even did some five-on-five basketball, which is prohibited under quarantine rules and drew a lot of flak a few weeks ago.

Chiba finished second in the BLeague in 2018 and 2019 and tallied a 28-12 record before the season was cut short early this year. The Jets faced PBA team Blackwater in the East Asia Super League in Macau last year and came away with a lopsided 109-69 win against the Elite in the invitational tournament.

In a press conference last month, San-en coach Kenjiro Hongo sees Ravena playing the point guard position for the NeoPhoenix.

“The reason why we recruited him is because his playing style fits our team,” Hongo said. “We are trying to find the best guy to be part of our organization. I really believe he is a fit to our team. He brings a lot of energy. Our concept is to run fast and play hard on defense. For sure, he will fit,” he added.

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TAGS: Basketball, Japan BLeague, Thirdy Ravena
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