MANILA, Philippines -- Thirdy Ravena is unlikely to play for Gilas Pilipinas in the national team's upcoming FIBA events in June, but the former Ateneo star stressed that he is always ready to suit up if called upon.
Gilas Pilipinas director Tab Baldwin explained to ABS-CBN News that Ravena's schedule, following his first season in Japan's B.League for the San-En NeoPhoenix, makes it difficult for the player to prepare with the national team.
"I talked to (Ravena) about, I guess about three weeks ago, maybe more. And we discussed that very thing," Baldwin said. "The reason I reached out to him was to find out when he was going to be available, and he said they're keeping him over there until I think late May."
Ravena and NeoPhoenix concluded their season last week, but he expects to stay in Japan until May 29 as he attends to other responsibilities with the squad.
Should Ravena arrive in the country by June, he will have less than a month to train with the national team before they compete in the final window of the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers, set for June 16-20 in a bubble in Clark.
"To integrate him into the team chemistry, like any player, takes time. That's the part that's probably unfair to everybody, including Thirdy," Baldwin said.
"I wouldn't want to put Thirdy in a position where, when he goes out on the court, he's unprepared, and doesn't really know all of our systems. Of course, that would be unfair to the other players as well," he added.
Ravena has already played in the first window of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers back in February 2020, and was the youngest player in the team that competed in the FIBA World Cup qualifiers in 2019. Baldwin, who coached Ravena during his days with the Blue Eagles, said they would love to have a player of his caliber in the squad.
With the FIBA events set to coincide with the PBA season, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) decided to call up amateur standouts as well as full-time Gilas players to the team.
"We would love to have Thirdy's talent, and you know, his attitude and his experience," Baldwin said. "But there's a point at which it's probably counterproductive to the whole team."
Ravena himself believes it will be unfair for him to come into the squad at this late hour and take a spot from a player who has been training for months. The national team pool has had several camps since January at the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna.
They entered the facility again on April 26 to continue their preparations for the Asia Cup qualifiers, as well as the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament that will take place in Belgrade, Serbia from June 29 to July 4.
"Sometimes, it's out of your control," said Ravena. "For example, if they're already practicing now, if they started last April, late April, with the bubble, I feel like it's unfair also for the players who've practiced more than a month for the windows na sila na 'yung may alam ng sistema, sila na 'yung nagpakahirap to try and get a spot."
"I'm not just gonna budge in that practice gym and take a spot, and I feel like it's unfair for the guys as well," he added.
But Ravena maintains that he "always wanna represent the Philippines."
"I've dreamt about playing for Gilas and I will always represent Gilas naman whenever I can and if the opportunity is right," he said. "That's always on the table. It will never not be on the table for me, I feel like it."
Ravena's next opportunity to play for the national team will likely be in August, when Gilas competes in the FIBA Asia Cup in Jakarta, Indonesia.
"We always appreciate Thirdy. We would love to have him in," said Baldwin. "Hopefully for the Asia Cup in August, depending on his schedule, that might be possible that we bring him in after the June games, when we start preparing for the August, Asia Cup, if he's available."
"I'd like to think that he will be, because that's sort of the deal with his club. You know, they all have release clauses in their contracts for FIBA events. So, you know, we'll discuss that when the time comes," he added.
"But for these games in June, with his availability time frame, it's not very feasible to bring him in."
Thirdy Ravena, Gilas Pilipinas, Tab Baldwin, FIBA Asia Cup, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, Japan B.League, San-En NeoPhoenix