'Saint' Dwight Ramos a valid reason to keep the faith in Gilas Pilipinas

Anointed "Saint Dwight", Dwight Ramos is giving Filipinos reason to keep the faith in Gilas Pilipinas following a slump in form heading into next year's FIBA World Cup. FIBA

In 2019, Dwight Ramos was just another Filipino-American who had moved to the Philippines to play in the UAAP.

Three years later, he stands alongside Jordan Clarkson and Kai Sotto as shoo-ins for the Gilas Pilipinas team that will see action in the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup.

All that, and he's yet to play for a local team.

Initially committed to the Ateneo Blue Eagles, the 6-foot-4 wing never quite debuted for the Blue Eagles, no thanks to the pandemic.

So instead, he took his talents to Japan, where after a solid first season for the Toyama Grouses, he then signed another one-year contract for another B.League squad in Levanga Hokkaido.

All in all, that means that throughout the time Ramos has been in Filipinos' collective memory, it's only with the national team that he has played for a, well, Filipino team.

Even more, the 24-year-old has only played in front of a full-capacity Filipino crowd once: in Gilas' match opposite Saudi Arabia a month ago. A match that he, most definitely, isn't forgetting.

"It was electric. My first time playing for Gilas, there weren't that many fans. But (this game against Saudi Arabia) was packed. It felt so good to run out there," he exclaimed. "Basketball, from my experience, it wasn't the same. Filipino fans are just amazing."

Ramos was born and was raised in California, and played for NCAA Div. I Cal State-Fullerton for two years and then Div. II Cal Poly-Pomona for another year.

There, he didn't experience a crowd as loud and as proud as Filipinos supporting their national team -- support that extends even to a kababayan who only came home to the Philippines in 2019.

"I was really surprised at all the love I've gotten. I remember, my (Gilas) debut wasn't really special," he recalled. "But I was just excited putting on the national team jersey. From there, I just kept working and getting better."

The do-it-all wing then went on to say that, perhaps, that all-out support had something to do with Filipinos seeking some sort of entertainment at the height of COVID-19. And maybe, just maybe, he has a point -- after all, he even got himself a nickname, all because of a social media post.

Back in his first year in the Philippines, he turned into 'The Saint' after a video of him seemingly being prayed over by a fan went viral. It painted a picture of devotion, somewhat -- devotion to who could turn out to be an otherworldly talent, once for Ateneo, now for Gilas.

The nickname stuck. 'Saint Dwight, pray for us' has become quite the popular phrase, blasphemy be damned.

"Honestly, having a nickname, I'd be good with whatever. I'm not giving myself a nickname, but I'm good with 'The Saint,'" he expressed. "If they change it, I'm good too. It's all love, anyway."

Turning serious, though, Filipinos have all the reasons to, indeed, cheer on Ramos, as he's posted per game counts of 14.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.4 assists in six games for the national team.

The most consistent bright spot in what has been a gloomy and grey period for Gilas, he does deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as former NBA Sixth Man of the Year Clarkson and NBL standout Sotto.

For the so-called 'Saint,' though, wearing the flag and making his kababayans proud is just some sort of fulfilling his destiny.

"I was given a chance to play for Batang Gilas before and I got my passport for that, but ended up not going to play. Then, I was focused on playing in the States, but I always had the Philippines on my mind," he shared.

"When it was time to move to Ateneo, it just felt right. Because of the pandemic, it just didn't pan out, but looking back, I'm pretty happy with how it all played out."

Batang Gilas? Should've been. Ateneo? Should've been. Gilas Men? Finally, it is.

At the same time, Ramos is dead set on claiming a bigger stage and brighter lights for Filipinos in the international arena. That's why he's laser-focused on helping Levanga to contention in the B.League tipping off in October.

Still, he's not ruling out playing in the PBA. When the time is right. When the feeling is right.

"Of course! I'll always consider that. I'm still young. I'm taking it a year at a time. After this one-year contract, I'll again see what the best option is for me," he remarked. "I love playing here in Japan, but after this season, there's always a chance of me playing in the PBA."

Dwight Ramos has played in front of a full-capacity Filipino crowd once -- and just one time only, so far. Whether there or everywhere else, though, his kababayans have full faith in 'The Saint.'

And they can rest assured that 'The Saint' has, and will always have, their best interests at heart.

"In terms of my game, what I'm working towards is just consistency. Other than that, I wanna help grow basketball both locally and internationally," he detailed. "Just hopefully by showing and sharing more and more of my talent, I can reach the younger generation."