MANILA, Philippines -- Thirdy Ravena opened doors for Filipino basketball players when he took his talents to Japan in 2020, signing with the San-En NeoPhoenix of the B.League rather than going to the PBA.
Two years later, 11 other Filipinos have joined him in Japan while a handful more are playing in South Korea, Taiwan, and Australia. Younger players in collegiate leagues know that they have more options than ever before, and plenty of places they can hone their talent.
It's a movement that Ravena, who is now in his third season with San-En, hopes will continue.
"I'm very happy that I got my Filipino brothers here with me in Japan right now, and everyone can see how great of a league the B.League is," Ravena said in a press conference with local media ahead of the season.
"I just want to say thank you to the league for accepting us Filipinos and other Asian countries out here," he added. "[I'm] hoping for more Filipinos to come."
Among the Filipinos now plying their trade in Japan is Ravena's older brother, Kiefer, who will be in his second season with the Shiga Lakes. Dwight Ramos, after spending last year with the Toyama Grouses, signed with Levanga Hokkaido in the offseason.
Ray Parks also extended his stay with the Nagoya Diamond Dolphins and had 14 points in their season-opening win against the Seahorses Mikawa on Thursday. Other Filipinos, such as Roosevelt Adams, Greg Slaughter, and Jordan Heading, are playing in the second division.
Ravena believes that the league is ready to welcome even more Filipino players into the fold.
"Whichever path they choose, just know that Japan is always a nice place to be in, and the league is always evolving, always looking for ways on how to develop not just the players, but the league, and make it stronger and stronger every single year," he said.
Ravena and the NeoPhoenix open their 2022-23 campaign this afternoon against Kawasaki. For the Filipino swingman, it's an opportunity to bounce back from another difficult year; they won just 10 games last season against 48 defeats.
San-En overhauled its coaching staff in the offseason, while also bringing in new reinforcements. For Ravena, his focus is simply to do what it takes for the team to finally win consistently.
"I'm just trying to provide energy to the team and do whatever it takes to win," he said.