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NeoPhoenix team executive says Thirdy Ravena signing 'big for us'

The management of Japanese B.League squad San-en NeoPhoenix believes that their new Filipino import Thirdy Ravena will fit very nicely with the squad.

In an online press conference held in Japan and in the Philippines via teleconferencing app Zoom, the 23-year-old was introduced as the very first Asian import of the fledgling league.

"Thirdy is the best player in his country. Signing him is big for us," said Kenjiro Hongo, president of Phoenix Co., Ltd. "He can play (shooting guard), he can play (small forward). He will be a key player this season."

Ravena, three-time UAAP Finals MVP, was also visually prepared for the transition, sporting the team's red hues in his clothing and even his hair.

Hongo recalled that when he first saw Ravena make waves in the collegiate circuit, he thought that the six-foot-three swingman played like an American and decided to negotiate with him in the closing months of 2019.

The team likes to employ a fast-paced style of play and hard-nosed defense, Hongo said, adding he is a firm believer in Ravena's abilities.

Ravena, already enamored with Japanese culture, said he talked with several Japanese teams before zeroing in on NeoPhoenix, which plays in the B.League's First Division.

"There were a couple of offers but obviously you have to take into consideration the management and the people you're going to work with," explained Ravena.

The team hopes to turn around its fortunes behind Ravena as it languished at the bottom of the standings last season.

"We have a special opportunity to be better, coming from last season. The only way to go is up, so we can only get better from here. This is a great place to start," he added.

Proximity was also a huge factor in helping Ravena make the decision.

"We took that into consideration because it's also close to the Philippines and close to my family as well. They can always visit and go back and forth. Because they also know that I'm new. It's my first time in this situation to be playing outside the country," said Ravena.

Furthermore, Ravena can likely bank on Filipino support as more than 8,000 of his compatriots reside in the cities of Toyohashi and Hamamatsu, where the home arenas of the team are located.

Thirdy follows an overseas path that his older brother took a few years ago. Kiefer tried his luck with the NBA G-League team Texas Legends as a development player, before coming home to play for ABL club Alab Pilipinas.

The elder Ravena orchestrates the offense of the NLEX Road Warriors in the PBA, and has given advice to his younger brother regarding his latest career step.

"(Kiefer) told me to just play my game. I'm not just representing myself, but I'm bringing the Philippines when I go to Japan so I have to make sure to represent the best I can."

Regarding a possible stint with Gilas Pilipinas in the future, the two sides have not yet hammered out an agreement with scheduling, but both believe that they can eventually come to an agreement.

According to the team, they plan to fly in Ravena around mid-July, barring any unforeseen circumstances brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. The B.League's 2019-20 season was cut short by the pandemic. Its 2020-21 season is tentatively scheduled to start in October, according to reports.