THE HYPE is real for Thirdy Ravena as he braces for his debut in the Japanese B.League with San-En NeoPhoenix next month.
But is he ready for... robots?
Back in November 2019, Toyota Motors introduced CUE4, a fourth-generation AI basketball-playing robot, that was "signed" by reigning champion Alvark Tokyo.
Alvark, by the way, is sponsored by Toyota, so the "signing" shouldn't really come as a surprise.
Listed as a shooting guard (despite standing at 6-foot-8) and wearing jersey no. 94, CUE4 was called out at the team's home in Arena Tachikawa Tachihi in western Tokyo where it immediately made splash, pun intended, by sinking a half-court shot.
Its jersey number is a play on its name; 9 is pronounced "kyuu" in Japanese.
According to Toyota, the robot is more advanced than its predecessor, CUE3, as it had the ability to pick up and shoot basketballs, while also moving without human assistance.
Tomohiro Nomi, the project general manager, said back then that they hoped to see the robot participate in the B.League's Three-Point Contest. Three months later, it did just that, as it made the trek to Hokkaido.
Securing a "rental transfer" to Levanga Hokkaido in February, CUE4 coolly chucked shot after shot, not feeling the pressure from the one-minute time limit.
It eventually got its groove in the left corner where it drilled four of his last five shots, including the money ball.
CUE4 totalled 12 points in the contest.
The competition, however, was eventually won by Japanese deadshot Kosuke Kanamaru of Aisin SeaHorses, who scored 16 points to win the trophy.
Only two more players got to match or even exceed CUE4's output, with Takehiko Orimo of Levanga Hokkaido scoring 13 points and Takanobu Nishikawa of San-En NeoPhoenix having 12.
So how would Ravena, who shot 23-percent from deep last UAAP Season 82, fare?
Surely, he got his work cut out for him.