MANILA, Philippines – Ateneo Blue Eagles’ big man Angelo Kouame of the Ivory Coast might don the Gilas Pilipinas colors in future tournaments as a lawmaker started the process of his naturalization.
Antipolo City First District Representative Roberto “Robbie” Puno filed House Bill No. 5951, which seeks to grants Kouame Filipino citizenship in order for him to represent the country in the 2023 FIBA World Cup.
“We marveled at his performance that helped clinch a 16-0 sweep for the Ateneo Blue Eagles in the 82nd season of the UAAP,” said Puno, who serves as vice chairman of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas.
“Mr. Kouame may have had little knowledge of basketball before he came to our shores, but we cannot deny the immense potential he has shown by now,”
The 6-foot-10 Kouame held the fort inside for the Blue Eagles in their last two UAAP titles, averaging 12.5 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks in their historic tournament sweep of Season 82.
Kouame is also just 20 years old and is expected to only improve by the time the 2023 World Cup – which the country will host with Japan and Indonesia – comes around.
The bill is one of the first few concrete steps the SBP made to advance its plans of having a pool of naturalized players after federation president Al Panlilio said they will be moving on from Andray Blatche.
Blatche served as Gilas Pilipinas’ naturalized player since 2014 but may have probably played his last tournament for the country in the 2019 World Cup, where they went winless and finished dead-last.
“This pool of players would be valuable to our national team because the team would have more naturalized players to field in the case of injuries,” Puno said.
“Such a resource would be useful because we would be able to match what we need to win from a roster of naturalized players.”
Other foreign players touted to be naturalized are PBA champion imports Justin Brownlee of Barangay Ginebra and Chris McCullough of San Miguel.
“The choice would never be just one player. We could have Mr. Kouame and many other promising athletes there, ready to be assigned to a match as needed,” Puno added. – Rappler.com