|Ricardo Ratliffe, also known as Ra Gun-Ah, is back in the Philippines after four years. FIBA|
MANILA—Four years seems like a long time already for Ricardo Ratliffe.
The six-foot-eight forward last played in the Philippines in 2017 when the Magnolia Hotshots, still playing under the Star brand, tapped him as their import for the PBA Commissioner's Cup.
The Purefoods franchise went all the way to the semifinals only to be stopped by sister team San Miguel, and that is despite a rare 35-rebound performance from Ratliffe in one game.
Upon his return to Philippine soil, Ratliffe is now playing as South Korea's naturalized reinforcement for the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers third window at the Angeles University Foundation Sports and Cultural Center starting on Wednesday.
"It's been a while. I missed it too," said Ratliffe, who is locally known as Ra Gun-Ah in South Korea, on Monday during the media day.
With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing a lot of adjustments on how the games will be played like having the games behind closed doors and setting up a bubble in which teams are billeted inside a single hotel, Ratliffe believes the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas is doing a fine job in handling the bubble at the moment.
"You guys are doing great in safety precautions like glass shields, COVID test, and staying in our rooms. I think you are doing a great job in making sure to keep us safe," he further said.
Being with South Korea's national team since 2018, the current Jeonju Egis star will be among the Korean side's leaders as the said national squad is fielding in a young roster for the ACQ bubble.
"I just try to make sure that I lead by example and by communication with the team. We're trying to boost their confidence," said Ratliffe, who has been named co-captain of the squad.
The Koreans are fielding in a young core consisting of Kim Nak-Hyeon, Jeon Seong-Hyen, Kang Sang-Jae, Song Kyo-Chang, Byun Jun-Hyung, Lee Seoung-Hyun, Yang Hong-Seok, and highly touted teenage players Lee Hyun-Jung and Yeo Jun-Seok.
"I've always gravitated the younger players because they're the future," Ratliffe said of his young teammates.
Lee Dae-Sung and Lee Jung-Hyun have been called up too to backstop Ratliffe in proving the needed veteran smarts for the squad.
Despite only having a short time to gel together, Ratliffe insists, "We're so close as a team."
South Korea will be playing four games in five days in the ACQ bubble, starting with a Wednesday night match against Gilas Pilipinas in the latest chapter of their longstanding rivalry.
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