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Dwight Ramos focused on B.League, not discounting eventual stint in PBA

All his energy and attention is understandably directed towards an upcoming stint with the Toyama Grouses in the Japanese B.League, but Dwight Ramos assured that he is not closing his doors on possibly playing in the PBA at some point in the future.

The 6-foot-4 guard on Saturday briefly discussed the possibility of seeing action in Asia's first play-for-pay league and said there is still a certain allure in playing a little closer to home.

"Of course, I've always wanted to play in the PBA. And just like the locals in Japan, they want to stay in Japan play there. I think the same thing goes for us Filipinos, so we're just hoping that opportunity comes again, that after we're all done with our stints overseas, we could come back and play in the PBA," Ramos said in an interview on the Power & Play radio show hosted by former league commissioner Noli Eala.

Ramos, however, clarified that the focus right now is on the B.League, and that any decision regarding his future will require some serious deliberations between what should be a plethora of leagues willing to welcome the 23-year-old guard into the fold.

"My mind is on this next season coming up for me, because that's obviously what's next. But then after this season, that's when I'll start thinking about what's going to happen for me after that. Whether that's the PBA or it's another league, I'll just have to weigh my options again," Ramos continued.

"Usually I'll take it a year at a time. I'm the journeyman, so after this year, I'll re-evaluate, see what options I have coming in, and then I'll make a decision again when the time comes," he added.

Ramos became the eighth Filipino to ink a deal as an import under the league's Asian Player Quota after Toyama announced the signing last Sep. 10.

The decision to play in the young pro league, of course, involved decommitting from the Ateneo Blue Eagles, which was supposed to be the stage for the former Cal Poly Pomona talent's debut in the UAAP once Season 84 starts sometime next year.

Ramos shed a bit of light on what happened behind the scenes and said Ateneo brass eventually gave their blessing after some resistance early on.

"I talked to the coaches, I talked to my agent PJ [Pilares], I talked to the people at Ateneo, to boss Al [Panlilio], boss MVP (Manny V. Pangilinan), and I just let them know the situation, and they sort of gave me their advice and their tips on what they thought I should do. But it just came down to what I felt was inside my heart, too," he shared.

"Of course, Ateneo wanted me to stay because I came here to play for Ateneo. That was my priority and coming to the Philippines," Ramos continued. "But they really understand the situation here and how I was feeling, and how I'm not getting any younger. I'll be probably the oldest one in college by then."

Ramos also had offers from Taiwan, but the decision to head on over to Japan boiled down to a handful of factors.

The pay was good, first and foremost, but it was the opportunity to give Ramos a chance to solidify himself as a Filipino basketball player that primarily swayed his decision to sign in the B.League.

"I think right now, the Japan league is on the rise and obviously, they're kind of paying a little bit more than other countries. And that's kind of what a lot of people are looking at. But for me, it really wasn't all about that," he expressed. "Because I'm kind of relatively new to the Philippine basketball scene, I'm looking to sort of establish my name here. And hopefully, that will help me with Gilas and in the future, maybe more opportunities will come to me, whether it's Japan or anywhere else."

Then there's also the fact that Ramos has the opportunity to improve by consistently playing basketball in Japan - something that would be close to impossible in the Philippines owing to COVID-19 restrictions.

"I just think that the basketball scene in Japan is a little more stable right now compared to the Philippines in the PBA. It's really hard here with the situation, you never know when you can practice, when you can play games. So I think that going to Japan right now is just more stable for me," Ramos said.

"For me, I'm really looking to improve as a player. I'm playing a lot of games there, 60-plus games. I'm going to be practicing every day," he furthered. "I think that with the practice and playing experience against professionals, it'll really improve my game come the FIBA Asia Cup or the [FIBA World Cup qualifying] windows that are coming up and hopefully I can come out with Gilas next year and I'll come out a better player than I was this year."

It also helped that Toyama is a competitive basketball team itself, having made the playoffs for the 2020-21 B.League season after reaching the quarterfinals in the East District thanks to a 39-21 regular season record.

"That's what's kind of what I was looking for, so I could play it in the playoffs with a professional team and hopefully make a championship run with them. And that's kind of ultimately why I was looking at that team," Ramos noted.

Ultimately, kickstarting his pro career would be for the benefit of the national team as well, and Ramos assured that his commitment to Gilas Pilipinas will not waver at all.

"[Coach Tab Baldwin] wanted to make sure that I'm still committed to play for the national team and that my heart is there. Of course, without Gilas, none these opportunities would have come to me," he explained. "Of course, my heart's always with the national team. As long as I'm playing basketball, I want to play for the national team and wear the Philippine colors again."