MANILA, Philippines -- Thirdy Ravena and Jack Animam's upcoming stints as imports are proof that Filipino players are well-respected across the region, an official of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) said.
Former Ateneo de Manila University star Ravena recently signed with San-En NeoPhoenix of the Japanese B.League, becoming the first Filipino to play as an Asian import in the country. Animam, a five-time champion with National University, will play for Shih Hsin University in Taiwan's University Basketball Association.
Meanwhile, Far Eastern University's Kenneth Tuffin is already playing as an import for the Taranaki Mountain Airs in New Zealand's National Basketball League.
"It's an honor. I think we should be honored and we should be flattered that our players are being considered as imports now in our region," said Butch Antonio, the director of operations for SBP, during the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum on Tuesday.
"That only shows that ang respeto sa atin ng ating mga neighbors in the other countries. Kita nila na pwede talagang lumahok at mag-participate ang ating mga manlalaro in their leagues," he added.
Antonio expects these players to improve during their time abroad, a development that can only benefit the national team programs.
Both Ravena and Animam are key cogs in the men's and women's national teams, respectively. Ravena has played for Gilas Pilipinas in the final window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers, and was their star in the first window of the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers last February.
Animam, meanwhile, is a cornerstone of the Gilas Pilipinas women's team, having anchored their run to the gold medal in the 3x3 and 5-on-5 competitions in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.
Tuffin, for his part, was included in the "23 for 23" pool of players by former Gilas coach Chot Reyes.
"Being exposed to different kinds of basketball in whatever level, it's supposed to make a player better, basta sineseryoso niya ang kaniyang craft," said Antonio.
"Si Thirdy naman, noong nag-announce siya, nag-usap kami on a personal level. Hindi naman niya tinatalikuran ang commitment sa Gilas. The ball club knows that, the league knows that, and even our friends in the Japanese federation knows that," he also said.
"I think 'yung stint niya sa Japan will be good for him," Antonio said. "I think as a player, he will grow there. For sure, he will grow there."
SBP executive director Sonny Barrios added: "If you want to improve in sports, you play against those better than you."
"Kaya nga 'yang mga nabibigyan ng mga oportunidad na makalaro abroad where they can learn to develop their skills and talent at a different level, maganda 'yang opportunity," he said.
Ravena's season in Japan will start in October. Tuffin, for his part, has already played six games in the NBL, averaging 12 points and 5.3 rebounds per contest.
Animam is expected to leave for Taiwan at the end of July.
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