For Korean basketball fans, the name Ricardo Ratliffe isn’t strange. It has, in fact, become somewhat of a household name for hardcore Korean hoop nuts. Think of Ratliffe as the Korean Basketball League’s answer to someone like, say, Marqus Blakely, who has been a ubiquitous PBA import (interestingly enough, Blakely is currently playing in the KBL, too).
Ratliffe just finishes his tour of duty in the 2015-2016 KBL season after his Seoul Samsung Thunders got eliminated by Anyang KGC in the tournament quarterfinals. This season, Ratliffe averaged 20.2 points, 12.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.1 blocks for Seoul Samsung, which is the second KBL team he has played for in his career.
Ratliffe rose to prominence in Korea when he was drafted by perennial powerhouse (think of them as the KBL equivalent of the San Miguel Beermen) Ulsan Mobis Phoebus for the 2012-2013 season. Ratliffe, who played alongside would-be GlobalPort import Rod Benson in his first KBL season, wowed the Koreans with solid numbers in his debut campaign – 14.8ppg, 8.5rpg, 1.4apg, and 1.1bpg on 64.1 FG%. More importantly, he helped Ulsan dethrone Anyang KGC as league champs.
That started a three-season reign for the club, with Ratliffe at the helm in each of those championship-clinching terms. In his exploits, Ratliffe has been teammates with Korean national team veterans like Yang Dong-Geun, Moon Tae-Young, and Ham Ji-Hoon, and he was even a candidate for naturalization with another KBL veteran, Aaron Haynes. He played on the Korean national side in the 2014 William Jones Cup and even bagged Tournament MVP in that competition.
Now the 6’8 native of Hampton, Virginia will finally debut in the PBA, where he is to replace decorated reinforcement Denzel Bowles. He joins a team that has been flush with controversy ever since former coach Tim Cone was moved to sister team Barangay Ginebra. Replacement tactician Jason Webb has had little success this season, with whispers of internal strife hounding the Star Hotshots at every corner. Webb has seemingly favored the team’s younger talents over its grizzled vets, which has fanned the flames of intrigue even more.
With Ratliffe bringing his high level of play and highly-regarded curriculum vitae to the equation, it’ll certainly be interesting if the Hotshots can turn things around. Before he came into the KBL for Ulsan in 2012, the Mobis Phoebus were a middling club, finishing among the top five in 2011-2012, but unable to get any significant breakthrough. Ratliffe’s entry proved to be the spark the team needed, and perhaps he can have the same effect again, but this time for the beleaguered Hotshots. – By Enzo Flojo
Follow this writer on Twitter: @hoopnut