Japan B.League preview: Eight players ready to showcase Pinoy talent in Land of the Rising Sun

Published October 2, 2021, 12:00 AM

by Jonas Terrado

Thirdy Ravena’s breakthrough stint with Japanese club San-En Neophoenix created plenty of opportunities for Filipino players to ply their trade in the Land of the Rising Sun.

And with Ravena joined by seven compatriots, the B.League is expected to create plenty of buzz among Filipino fans as they’ll eagerly follow their progress during the eight-month campaign.

Plenty of subplots also mark the campaigns of Ravena, his older brother Kiefer, Ray Parks Jr., Kobe Paras, Dwight Ramos, Juan and Javi Gomez de Liano and Kemark Carino which starts on Saturday, Oct. 2.

These eight players are ready to showcase Filipino talent in Japan B.League

Coming out party for Carino?

The 6-foot-8 cager out of San Beda is perhaps the least prominent of the group, but his progress with the second division side Aomori Wat’s could help Carino realize his full potential.

Carino has shown the ability to be a solid shotblocker with the capability to play the perimeter on the other end, something that’s been rarely seen since the start of the pandemic despite playing for Gilas Pilipinas in the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers.

GDL brothers: New chapter

The Gomez de Liano siblings were among the early birds to accept offers to play in Japan following lengthy stints with the University of the Philippines that dates back to their high school days.

With Javi playing for the Ibaraki Robots and sweet-shooting Juan suiting up for B2 club Earthfriends Tokyo Z, the GDLs are looking at what they described as “personal growth” in a more-competitive level like the B.League.

Paras, Ramos: New challenge

The signing with Niigata Albirex, one of Japan’s oldest clubs, will see the 6-foot-6 Paras take on a new test after spending most of his young career in the United States followed by a brief UAAP stint with University of the Philippines.

Ramos, meanwhile, saw his stock increase with his solid play manning the point for Gilas Pilipinas in the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers. The 6-foot-4 hopes to make a good impression for Toyoma Grouses once he makes his debut.

Kiefer, Rayray: From PBA to B.League

The two second generation players’ road to the B.League was not without controversy as they had to deal with plenty of roadblocks related to their PBA status before being allowed to proceed with their Japanese stints.

Parks was finally allowed to sign with the Nagoya Diamond Dolphins following a lengthy dispute while Ravena took a much-longer process before being permitted by the NLEX Road Warriors and the PBA to fly his wings and play for the Shiga Lakestars.

But as they say, all’s well that ends well and both are now concentrating on meeting high expectations given their status as two of the country’s top cagers.

Thirdy eyes longer, better season

Despite his pioneering status, Ravena is coming off a campaign marred by a COVID-19 infection, a fractured finger and a knee injury that limited him to just 18 games with the San-En Neophoenix.

And Thirdy has set up high standards for himself to not only make sure that he bounces back from that injury-riddled season but also help the fortunes of the Neophoenix who went just 13-46.

Ravena’s role could increase given that he was one of the players retained by San-En during the offseason, but will have to at least limit his up-and-down performance from last season.

And there’s perhaps no better way for Thirdy, who averaged 9.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 22 minutes per contest the previous year, to start off on a high note than to beat Kiefer and Shiga in the two-game weekend opener.