MANILA, Philippines -- As excited as he is to play professional basketball abroad, Thirdy Ravena is admittedly feeling some pressure ahead of his stint in Japan's B.League.
"I can't help but feel a certain amount of weight on me, not just because I'm going there as an individual, but because I'm carrying the flag and country with me when I go to Japan," Ravena told Dyan Castillejo of ABS-CBN News.
"So I'm representing the Philippines as well. They're not gonna see me as Thirdy Ravena but you know, the guy from the Philippines," he added.
"I'll try my best, I'll do my best to represent the country the best way that I can," he promised.
Ravena made history for Philippine basketball on Wednesday, when it was confirmed that he will play for the San-En NeoPhoenix, a team in the B.League's first division. The former Ateneo de Manila University star became the first player to sign with a Japanese team under the league's Asian player quota system, which allows clubs to sign Asian imports.
The three-time UAAP champion joins a team that managed just a 5-36 record in its previous season. For Ravena, however, this does not add to the pressure that he feels.
"I think the only place to go is up," he said of his team. "So hopefully maganda po talaga 'yung season namin and we're just gonna do whatever it takes to have a better season."
Rather, Ravena is dwelling on what he expects from himself. He acknowledged that there are aspects of his game he needs to work on before he goes to Japan, particularly his ball-handling and his shooting. He is aware that much is expected of him, as an import.
"I'm coming in there as an import, I also have to take note of that all the time, that I'm coming there as an import," he said. "So, there's definitely expectation, not just from the management and the people who are watching, but I'm also expecting a lot from myself as well."
"(I'm) expecting more than what I expected from myself during my UAAP stint," he revealed. "It's another challenge, and the areas that I have to improve, it's gonna take a lot for my skills to be on lock."
What makes the new chapter in his life all the more difficult is that it will be the first time that Ravena will be away from his family for a prolonged period of time. He signed with San-En NeoPhoenix for a year. Before this, the longest he's been out of the Philippines is a month.
"A year is definitely gonna be something," he said.
But this is a challenge that Ravena welcomes. He expects that once he is with San-En NeoPhoenix, his life will revolve around basketball, and that's exactly what he wants at this point in his career.
"I expect nothing short of 'ball is life', actually," he said. "That's something I want to do rin -- focus lang talaga on my basketball career, on helping the team and on my individual development as a player."
"It's not gonna be easy, that's for sure," added Ravena. "If there's one thing I can tell you guys, it's not gonna be a walk in the park. I'm working there po, to bust my tail off and be the best player I can possibly be."
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website).