Ricardo Ratliffe is a firm believer in the talents of Thirdy Ravena, even including the Gilas Pilipinas stalwart in his All-Asia Team during a FIBA Asia Cup chat on Instagram TV just recently.
The former PBA import — also known as Ra Gun-ah, having been Korea’s naturalized player since 2018 — went as far as dubbing the second-generation cager “the future” of Philippine basketball.
Ratliffe has been keeping tabs on the basketball scene here, and he’s aware of Ravena’s exploits. But his high praises for the 23-year-old player aren’t solely based on highlight videos — it goes deeper than that.
Speaking in the 2OT podcast on Tuesday evening, Ratliffe shared that he first met Ravena in 2018, when Korea crossed paths with Ateneo-Pilipinas Blue Eagles in the William Jones Cup in Taiwan.
The Koreans won, 90-73, but Ratliffe left feeling impressed with the do-it-all Ravena, who led the Blue Eagles with 14 points, on top of five steals, four rebounds, and four assists in over 27 minutes of play.
“He’s like a Filipino Russell Westbrook or something.
“I had seen him in the Jones Cup a couple of years ago, and he killed us. Like, as you know, we were a real national team to the Jones Cup, and he played well against us,” he said.
“I’m like, ‘Who’s this dude?’ They was like, ‘Oh, he’s still in college,’ and I’m like, ‘What in the world?’ Like, his athleticism is like off the charts,” added the 6-foot-8 slotman out of University of Missouri.
Ratliffe shared that he and Ravena eventually spoke with each other after that match after meeting by chance at the hotel. There, he let the 6-foot-2 swingman knew that he just gained a new fan in him.
“I think I ran into him at the hotel, and then I was just like ‘aye, what’s up, man’. And then he came up to me and he was saying, talking how he was a fan of me and stuff from my stay in the PBA,” the former Star Hotshots import, who played in the PBA in 2016 and 2017, recalled.
“And he asked me for a jersey so I signed it and gave it to him, and let him know that I was his fan, too. After that, I’m just keeping with them.”
Ravena is undeniably one of the country’s best young stars today, having led Ateneo to the top of the UAAP in the last three seasons. He eventually ended his collegiate career as the league’s only three-time Finals MVP.
He would carry over his fine play to the national team, when he was among the Filipino dribblers that saw action in the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Qualifiers’ first window last February.
There, Ravena — who was in his first game back in a Gilas jersey since the sixth window of the World Cup Qualifiers last year — put up 23 points and eight rebounds to lead his side’s 100-70 demolition of Indonesia.
Then just last June, Ravena made history, becoming the first Filipino cager to play in the Japan B.League. He has signed with San-en NeoPhoenix to jump-start his professional career.
Ratliffe knows about Ravena’s latest endeavor, and there’s no doubt in his mind that the latter will flourish with the path he has chosen.
“I think he just signed in Japan. I know he’s gonna go out there and play well, and represent for the Philippines,” the 31-year-old offered. “I think he’s got a really, really bright future in him.
“He just gotta go out there and just have a free mind, be super confident. And he gotta always know that he’s still like one of the best players in the country. Just go out there with that mindset and play like it.”