By Olmin Leyba

JAPAN-BASED Thirdy Ravena gave shorthanded Gilas Pilipinas an added boost in personnel and firepower 15 days before it wages battle in the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) World Cup 2023 Asian Qualifiers.

Mr. Ravena, who plays for the San-en NeoPhoenix in the Japan B. League, arrived on Tuesday night to hook up with coach Chot Reyes’ Gilas cadets-TnT combo for the Feb. 24-28 FIBA hoopfest at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

“Thirdy is confirmed (for the February window),” Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) president Alfredo “Al” Panlilio told The STAR on Wednesday.

The high-flying Mr. Ravena followed the path of fellow B. League campaigner Dwight Ramos of Toyama, who packed his bags to answer the call of the Philippine team.

Messrs. Ravena and Ramos represent what’s left of former mentor Tab Baldwin’s old Gilas youth brigade that Mr. Reyes inherited for this endeavor, along with Ange Kouame, Juan Gomez de Liaño, Will Navarro, Tzaddy Rangel and Jaydee Tungcab.

Tropang Giga stalwarts RR Pogoy, Troy Rosario, Poy Erram and Kib Montalbo, among others, are eyed as reinforcements for the Nationals’ Group A games against South Korea, New Zealand and India.

The Philippines is already assured of its spot in the 2023 World Cup proper as host regardless of the outcome of its assignments in the qualifiers. But the Pinoy dribblers want to fight it out as if their lives depended on it.

“We want to compete especially because we’re playing at home,” said Reyes.

“My belief also is even if you’re preparing for some future, being competitive, undergoing the crucible of intense competition is part of that preparation. The first thing we want is to field a team that will compete and, at the same time, still have a firm view on the developmental aspect of putting the best team together for 2023,” he added.