MANILA, Philippines -- He emerged as a star for Gilas Pilipinas earlier this year, but Dwight Ramos knows he still has plenty to prove as he starts his career as a professional basketball player.
Ramos last week signed with the Toyama Grouses in Japan's B.League, making him the eighth Filipino player to join the league as an Asian import. The development meant that he will no longer play for Ateneo de Manila University in the UAAP.
"It was just the situation here, the uncertainty of the UAAP," said Ramos on "The Game," as he explained his decision. "I really don't know when it's gonna happen."
Ramos transferred to Ateneo in 2019 after playing for California State University, Fullerton from 2016 to 2018. He would have been eligible to play in the UAAP Season 83 men's basketball tournament, which was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With no certainty as to when collegiate sports in the Philippines can resume, Ramos decided to take the opportunity offered to him in Japan.
"I just really needed to keep playing. It's really hard to get in the gym, so I was looking forward to getting back to that everyday practice, consistent games, and that's what I was looking for," he explained.
"I found a good team, one of the teams in the B.League, and they wanted me, so that's how it all happened," he added.
For the 23-year-old Ramos, this stint in Japan is a way for him to showcase what he is truly capable of, after giving Filipino fans a glimpse of his talent through his stint with the national team.
Ramos played six games for Gilas Pilipinas in the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers, averaging 13.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. He grabbed the spotlight in their game against Thailand in November, when he made all seven of his shots en route to a 20-point, seven-rebound performance. Gilas Pilipinas won comfortably, 93-61.
"Every time I play, I feel like I need to prove something," Ramos said.
"I only played a couple games with Gilas, I didn't get to play in the UAAP. So really, I'm still relatively new to the Filipino basketball scene," he pointed out.
"I think that this year, I'm hoping to solidify my name in the Philippines."
Ramos joins a Toyama team that has high hopes for the upcoming B.League season, having made the playoffs last year. The team is already touting his arrival as well, as they are already accepting pre-orders for his No. 24 jersey.
Ramos understands that the B.League will be an entirely different challenge but he believes it is one he is ready for, thanks to the training he received from coach Tab Baldwin both in Ateneo and in Gilas Pilipinas.
"I came in here (the Philippines) pretty inexperienced. I came and learned with Coach Tab for however long I could with Ateneo, and then continued with him with Gilas. And he really prepared me to become a professional player," said Ramos.
"So I'm gonna take everything that I learned from him and the rest of the guys at Ateneo, and use that when I go to Japan," he added.
His time with the national team, in particular, has been crucial to his development.
"Gilas is really a good preparation for me, it's really high level basketball we played in the OQTs (Olympic Qualifying Tournament), the Asia Cup against Korea, then we went to Jordan and played against those guys over there," he explained.
"So I think Gilas really prepared me for this and I'm just looking forward to getting over there and getting to work."
Aside from Ramos, also set to play in the B.League this season are: Thirdy Ravena (San-En NeoPhoenix), Kiefer Ravena (Shiga Lakestars), Juan Gomez de Liano (Earthfriends Tokyo Z), Bobby Ray Parks Jr. (Nagoya Diamond Dolphins), Javi Gomez de Liano (Ibaraki Robots), Kemark Carino (Aomori Wat's), and Kobe Paras (Niigata Albirex).
Toyama's campaign opens on October 2 against the Shinshu Brave Warriors. Ramos will face off against a fellow Filipino for the first time on October 16, when they play Parks and the Nagoya Diamond Dolphins.