Many chapters of the famed, long-standing rivalry between Asian basketball powers South Korea and the Philippines have been written, with Ricardo Ratliffe himself involved.
A naturalized Korean since 2018, Ratliffe experienced being part of the story in the Asian Games of that same year. And there, he felt like there was really an extra push among his teammates whenever they face the Filipinos.
“Yeah, I actually can [sense it],” the former PBA import told the 2OT podcast. “I’ve gone into games where the players are scared to death.
“But when they play against you guys, it’s, like, different.”
According to Ratliffe, the Koreans never showed signs of backing down, even when Gilas Pilipinas paraded NBA player Jordan Clarkson in the meet — his first-ever Philippine team stint.
“All the players were like, ‘Oh, I’m not afraid of Jordan Clarkson,’ you know. ‘I’m gonna play good defense on him, he can’t guard me”. And I was just like, ‘You know this guy’s, like, one of the best sixth men in the NBA?’
“He can’t guard you? Or you’re gonna stop him?’ But, I like your mindset, your mentality. If you guys think like that, then I’m pretty confident of our chances to win,” Ratliffe shared.
Clarkson, though, put up an impressive performance and produced 25 points, eight rebounds, and three assists. But even he couldn’t help Gilas overcome the Korean curse, as they lost, 82-91.
At the forefront of Korea’s victory, meanwhile, was Ratliffe, who finished with 30 points and 14 rebounds. The East Asian team would eventually snag the bronze medal at the expense of Chinese Taipei.
The defeat was tough to swallow for the Philippines. Not only did it dash its hopes of a podium finish, but it served as a chilling reminder that the country hadn’t won over the Koreans in the Asiad since 1970. Yes, 1970.
Ratliffe doesn’t know where exactly Korea’s motivation stems from whenever it plays the Southeast Asian giants. But maybe, he said, “It’s just because they’ve got some wins and they just feel like they can’t lose against the Philippines.”
But beyond the added motivation, Ratliffe also noted how disciplined the Koreans are in their approach to the game. And that, for him, is a major reason why they continue to have the Philippines’ number.
“Koreans are so disciplined,” the first-ever US-born cager to acquire Korean citizenship said.
“If you want to beat this team, I think you’re gonna have to be twice as disciplined as this team in order to beat them.”