San-en Neophoenix import Thirdy Ravena revealed that Japanese teams began reaching out to him during the UAAP Season 82 men's basketball tournament last year.
"It actually started during the UAAP season, but I had to focus first with Ateneo. San-en started talking to me around February, but the offer started to come in after the season," Ravena on Sports Page on Monday. "That's when we started weighing with my agent and my family the options and what I want to see in a team and where I want to play, the area that I'm going to be in."
Signing with the Neophoenix made Ravena the first Asian Special Slot contracted player in the B.League.
Ravena said that he chose San-en, the lowest ranked among the five teams that fielded an offer, because he believes that the bottom is "a good place to start."
"There are no expectations and we can only go up from here," said Ravena.
He added that the San-en management is top-notch, and the team will be handled by a great coach in Branislav Vicentic, who was just recently hired. Proximity to the Philippines was also a great selling point, since it would be easy for family members to visit him. He could also easily attend Gilas practices in the future.
Father and TNT head coach Bong Ravena revealed that it is a dream for Thirdy to play overseas. He added that they also received offers from clubs based in Italy and Australia.
"I'm very happy that he went to an OK place. Hopefully, he can help the team. I just told him to enjoy and play hard there," Bong Ravena said. "We were hesitant at first. Does Thirdy really need to go overseas? But at the same time, the experience will benefit him. I want to give him that opportunity, like what happened with Kiefer before."
Charles Tiu, who coached Thirdy under the Mighty Sports banner in the Dubai International Basketball Tournament, said the BLeague's level of play can be compared to Korea's KBL and China's CBA. Japanese squads also have two imports, who most of the time are American. Other nationalities, such as Serbians, have come to the country to play as well.
"I'm excited to see Thirdy come and play there. He can more than hold his own and contribute. It's going to be a great experience for him," said Tiu. "I wouldn't mind seeing more Filipino players playing abroad. I know it might hurt the leagues here but look, if we have so many achievements here in whatever field, they say 'Pinoy yan!' why not in basketball?" Tiu pronounced.
Japan Times reporter Kaz Nagatsuka said that the B.League has helped basketball become the fastest rising sport in the country, trailing baseball and football.
"In only four years, the league has done remarkable progress both on and off the court. Now we have better imports...from a market standpoint, it has gotten better," said Nagatsuka.
The B.League season was cancelled in March, but the league aims to resume with a new season in October behind closed doors.