Thirdy Ravena committed to not just Fiba qualifying window campaign
The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) is making good on its goal to reassemble a talented, young national pool for the country and just tabbed its second program returnee in Thirdy Ravena, who planed in from Japan and immediately joined Gilas Pilipinas training on Wednesday.
In answering the call to represent the country, Ravena also reaffirmed his commitment to the program all the way to the 2023 World Cup.
“Thirdy told me before he left for Japan that he is committed to the National team [until] the World Cup,” Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) president Al Panlilio messaged the Inquirer late Wednesday. “He said he will continue to work on his game as he wants to be one of the best players in the team.”
Panlilio also lent credence to an Inquirer report last week quoting sources who said the national federation is busy moving on from the stunning resignation of Tab Baldwin, the national coach and Gilas Pilipinas program director, and the decimation of a program stripped of its core by opportunities to play abroad. Panlilio, however, added that the current road map for the World Cup team could include PBA players.
“The SBP is committed to the program as planned with the young players,” Panlilio said. “We appreciate of course the offer of the PBA to always be of help. Am sure we will still need a few PBA players for the World Cup.”
The SBP welcomed talented do-everything guard Dwight Ramos last week and, with Ravena joining this week, will have a group of youngsters to mix up with the core of the TNT Tropang Giga squad that returning national coach Chot Reyes will tap for the February window of the Fiba (International Basketball Federation) World Cup Asian qualifying window.
“Surprise,” the high-leaping cager wrote in an Instagram entry showing him at Moro Lorenzo Sports Center in Ateneo. The Nationals are set to slug it out with three nations in a five-day window at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, Quezon City, beginning Feb. 24.
“Happy to see Thirdy back to help out [in the cause],” Panlilio said. “He has always told me he is committed to Gilas ever since.”
Sources said the SBP is rushing to reaffirm other commitments for the 2023 World Cup that the country will host along with Japan and Indonesia.
Just last year, with Baldwin at the helm, the program had a robust roster to build on for the basketball centerpiece featuring Ramos, 7-foot-3 young center Kai Sotto, naturalized big man Ange Kouame, stretch big Isaac Go and modified wing Justin Baltazar at its disposal.
But as a lot of those players signed up for foreign leagues, the program was left in limbo. And it is up to current staff to reconstruct the pool for the World Cup, with sources close to the SBP saying the federation is in constant contact with the talented youngsters.
Ravena, the 6-foot-3 swingman, left Japan B.League team San-En NeoPhoenix temporarily and will provide a key boost for the nationals in the qualifying window, where the country will face South Korea, India and New Zealand.
“[South] Korea is hard-pressed to avenge its losses to us [in the Asia Cup qualifiers] last year, plus [the Koreans] need to qualify for the  World Cup. But we will be ready to battle,” Panlilio said.
The Philippines, which will host the main stretch of the World Cup, including the knockout rounds up to the final, no longer needs to qualify for the event, but plans to use the windows as a chance to sharpen the pool.
“We want to take all the windows seriously,” Panlilio said. The Koreans are set to arrive soon with veterans in tow, namely Kim Sun-hyung, a member of the contingent that lost to the Jimmy Alapag-led cast back in the 2013 Fiba Asia Cup semifinals.
“Games against the Philippines have always been very tight,” the veteran, now 33, said in an interview on the tournament website. “I remember that in 2013 … the Philippines players were very dynamic.”
“Now, it is time for revenge. I am ready and confident about beating them in the two games,” he went on.
“[The Koreans are] coming in for qualification and survival to get to the World Cup. I think we’re going to see a very different Korean team,” said Reyes.
Aside from Ravena and Ramos, the young guns in the pool include Kouame, Juan Gomez de Liaño, and Philippine Basketball Association-loaned talents Jaydee Tungcab, Will Navarro and Tzaddy Rangel.
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