MANILA - More and more Filipino cagers are trying their luck abroad, and this can only bode well for the next generation.
This, according to Thirdy Ravena who is among the trailblazers in Philippine hoops, having played for San-En NeoPhoenix in Japan's B.League for the past season. The former Ateneo star also recently signed a contract extension that will keep him with San-En for at least two more seasons.
"If you have an opportunity that not a lot of people have gotten, why not take it?" Ravena said of the chance to play abroad.
"Go, pursue whatever dreams you have. 'Cause, at the end of the day, kung ano man 'yung pangarap mo, ayaw mong i-regret 'yan," he also said.
For Ravena, playing in overseas leagues showcases not just their personal talent, but also the level of Filipino basketball as a whole. He sees it as an opportunity to prove that Filipino players belong on the international stage.
And he is confident that it will only make bigger things possible for the next generation of Filipino cagers.
"You're not just helping yourself but you're helping the country. You're representing the country, and you're opening doors for a lot of Filipino players," said Ravena. "You inspire a lot of Filipino players, the youth, the next generation, to keep working hard, to be able to reach the level that they desire."
"That really allows them to get inspired by chasing your own dream, you give them the chance to dream as well and to possibly chase it," he added. "Sobrang happy ako na ginagawa ng mga Pilipino 'yun 'cause I think we really can make it worldwide and we're meant to play worldwide."
Before Ravena, Filipina players such as Afril Bernardino and Allana Lim had already played as imports in leagues in Southeast Asia. Jack Animam, a five-time UAAP champion from National University, won a championship with Shih Hsin University in Taiwan earlier this year, and is now training in the United States where she is looking to reach the next level.
Kobe Paras is also training in the US, along with former Far Eastern University high school star Cholo Anonuevo. Ken Tuffin, who played for FEU in the UAAP, is currently suiting up for the Saints in New Zealand.
Teenage center Kai Sotto, of course, is headed to Australia to play for the Adelaide 36ers in the National Basketball League. The prodigy is still hopeful that he can be the first homegrown Filipino player to reach the NBA.
Ravena says Filipino athletes can succeed in the international stage "as long as we put in the work."
"'Yun yung talagang kailangan natin makita, the mentality and the hard work and the work ethic that we have to bring to the table in order to play internationally," he explained. "I think by doing that, slowly nakikita natin na yeah, just needs a little more work but kayang kaya naman."
"Kayang kaya naman natin. I think that thought, na kayang kaya naman natin, trabahuhin lang natin, is really important, not just for the players, but for everyone who's watching them na kayang kaya."
Meanwhile, Rain or Shine's Gabe Norwood, a mainstay of the national team, paid tribute to the other players who first tested the waters overseas before eventually returning to the Philippines.
Speaking on "Power and Play" recently, Norwood noted that TNT veteran Jayson Castro previously played for the Singapore Slingers before embarking on a glittering career in the PBA. Japeth Aguilar, Ray Parks, and Thirdy's older brother Kiefer all tried their luck in the NBA's developmental circuit before focusing on their PBA careers.
"I think it's something that's gonna stick with us," Norwood said. "It's a testament to the style of play here in the Philippines, and really, the people that we are."