MANILA, Philippines – As the year 2021 comes to an end, here’s a look at how Filipinos in the Japan B. League have fared thus far as the competition inches closer to the halfway mark – 24 of 60 regular games – of the season.
1. Bobby Ray Parks Jr.
The Nagoya Diamond Dolphins share second place in the West with the Shimane Susanoo Magic. Both squads have 17 wins and 7 losses, tied with Alvark Tokyo for fourth-best in the entire B. League.
Bobby Ray Parks Jr. is one of the main reasons for Nagoya’s rise to the top of the standings, even if his numbers may not be as eye-catching compared to the other Filipino reinforcements.
Parks is averaging 11.8 points, scoring in double figures in 14 games out of the 22 he has played. He sinks an efficient 48.9% of his attempts from the field. These numbers are huge considering that Parks rarely gets any plays called for him. When one watches the games of Nagoya, it is noticeable that Parks is usually stationed, probably by design, at the corner as one of the last offensive options of the team. Yet he makes the most out of his limited touches.
Coach Shawn Dennis calls on Parks as Nagoya’s utility man who is tasked to defend the opposing team’s top wing scorers. Because of his size and athleticism, Parks is also assigned to cover some of the high-scoring imports of the opposing squad.
In the team’s last six games, Parks has been on the floor an average of 28.11 minutes, longer than imports Cody Clarks and Scott Eatherton.
Parks also averages 3.6 boards and 1.2 steals.
2. Kiefer Ravena
Among the Filipino reinforcements in Japan, Kiefer Ravena has been the most explosive. Like Parks, he has scored in double figures in 14 games, although he has played more games (24) than Parks.
Ravena has produced at least 20 points five times this season. He was at his most lethal in his encounter with Japan B. League MVP Yuki Togashi of the defending champion Chiba Jets last November 7. In a matchup between two of Asia’s best point guards who both became part of the Texas Legends in the NBA D-League, the Phenom dropped 27 points, 10 assists, and 3 steals and rendered Togashi scoreless even as the Jets prevailed over the Lakestars.
The Phenom seems to enjoy the challenge of going up against topnotch competition as he also put up huge numbers against American playmaker and B. League third-leading scorer DJ Newbill of the Osaka Evessa last December 15. Ravena erupted for 28 points and also had 3 boards and 8 assists against Newbill, who had 26 points and 6 assists.
Aside from being a force on offense, Ravena also dishes out 5.8 assists, tied for eighth-best in the B. League. His average of 1.5 steals per outing places him in the top five in the league.
3. Thirdy Ravena
If only the San-En NeoPhoenix played better as a group and had more than four wins to show at this juncture, Thirdy Ravena would most likely top this ranking list.
After all, he has been the most consistent Filipino in the Japan B. League.
In his first season last year with the NeoPhoenix, Thirdy posted averages of 9.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game in 18 games. These numbers were enough to earn a callback from coach Branislav Vicentic for Thirdy to return to Japan this season.
Thirdy repaid the trust given to him by improving on his stats this season.
He is scoring 12.6 points a game, the highest among all Filipinos and fifth-best among all Asians in the B. League. Thirdy has scored at least 10 points in 18 out of the 22 games he has played, four games more than his brother Kiefer and Parks who have scored in double figures 14 times apiece.
Thirdy is also averaging 4.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists. Thirdy is the third-highest rebounding Asian in the B. League next to 6-foot-8 Japanese-American Avi Schafer, who collars 5.4 a game, and fellow Blue Eagle Dwight Ramos.
4. Dwight Ramos
The Toyama Grouses were a playoff team last season, but they cannot seem to find their groove this time. They opened their 2021-2022 campaign with eight straight losses. They have since won eight times and lost the same number of games in their last 16 outings to end 2021 with an 8-16 record.
The Grouses’ up-and-down run is seemingly mirrored by Dwight Ramos’ own performance. When both the Grouses and Ramos are good, they are really good. But there have been games when their output can be described as ho-hum at best.
Ramos is the only other Filipino aside from Parks and the Ravenas who is scoring in double digits. Ramos averages 10.3 points on a 41% shooting clip from the field. In the 20 games he has played, Ramos has failed to score in double digits in half of them.
He has, however, been a tireless worker off the glass.
Ramos averages 4.6 boards per game, second-highest among all Asians in the B. League. He grabs more rebounds than 6-foot-9 Japan national team center Kosuke Takeuchi of the Utsonomiya Brex and 6-foot-6 power forward Tenketsu Harimoto of the Nagoya Diamond Dolphins.
5. Kobe Paras
Kobe Paras is averaging 8.4 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 1.5 assists in 23 games. These are pretty decent numbers, except that these do not represent the creases in his journey with the Niigata Albirex, which currently sits last in the entire B. League with its 2-22 win-loss record.
Paras began his professional career in Japan like he was out to prove his worth to all naysayers.
In his first six games with Niigata, Paras was on the floor an average of 28.76 minutes as coach Fujitaka Hiraoka put the ball on his hands and made him an integral part of the team’s offense. Paras delivered by scoring 16.33 points, shooting 41.2% from the floor. He also averaged 3 rebounds and 2.5 assists.
However, it was all downhill from there for both Paras and the Albirex.
In the next 17 games, Paras would only score in double figures twice. He went scoreless in two of those games as his average went down to just 5.58 points. He finished with zero rebounds four times. There were also four games when he failed to register a single assist. The lowest point for Paras was in their last game for 2021, a 75-86 loss to the Yokohama B-Corsairs, when he was fielded in by Hiraoka for just 21 seconds.
6. Juan Gomez de Liaño
Juan Gomez de Liaño last saw action on December 4 for the Earthfriends Tokyo Z in the Japan B. League Division II. They lost that game to the cellar-dwelling Aomori Wat’s, 65-89. He has missed the last eight games of his squad since then due to health protocols.
In the 17 games that he has been given floor time by Spanish coach Hugo Lopez, Gomez de Liaño has made the most out of the opportunity.
The former UP Maroon and Gilas playmaker has contributed 5.3 points. 2.2 rebounds, and 2.4 assists. His shooting from downtown, though, leaves much to be desired as he is connecting on just 20% of his attempts from three.
The Earthfriends Tokyyo Z, owners of a 5-21 record which places them second to last in the Division II standings, has a loaded backcourt. It is to Juan’s credit that he still norms 16.33 minutes a game. Aside from Juan, coach Lopez also has three other point guards in Kotaro Hisaoka, Japanese-American Mark Burton, and Tsubasa Kurihara.
7-9. Javi Gomez de Liaño, Kemark Cariño, Matthew Aquino
It is hard to make any impact when one is not entrusted with significant playing time. Such is the fate that has befallen Javi Gomez de Liaño, Kemark Cariño, and Matthew Aquino.
Javi has played only 13 games for the Ibaraki Robots and is averaging a mere 10 minutes of action. He scores 2.4 points a game and tallies 1.8 boards.
Cariño has also played 13 games for the Aomori Wat’s which is last in the Division II standings. Like his former Gilas teammate Javi, Cariño averages 10 minutes per outing and puts up 1.2 points and 1.8 rebounds.
Aquino, who is recognized as a local for the Shinshu Brave Warriors due to his Japanese lineage in his mother’s side, has had to share playing time with his squad’s three American imports who are all bigs. Aquino averages 7 minutes per outing in the 10 games he has played and contributes 1.7 points and 1.7 rebounds for the Brave Warriors. – Rappler.com