Angelo Kouame can now suit up for Gilas Pilipinas as its naturalized player in the third and final window of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers after getting the go signal from the world governing body of basketball.
The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) on Saturday, June 12 announced that FIBA has approved the registration of Kouame, who acquired his Philippine passport last week.
Kouame, who hails from Ivory Coast, got naturalized in May.
“This decision is consistent with the whole program because it’s a vision to the future,” said national team program director Tab Baldwin.
“We’ll try to accomplish short-term goals while we’re really focusing on our long-term objective of forming a Gilas team that can genuinely compete with top 10 teams in the world come 2023.”
Naturalizing Kouame proved to be an off-kilter move by the SBP as it tapped the services of heralded and more experienced players like Marcus Douthit and Andray Blatche in the past.
Douthit and Blatche both helped the Nationals reach the FIBA World Cup in the 2014 and 2019 editions, respectively.
But Baldwin said the 23-year-old has the potential to become a difference-maker, as proven by him attracting the interest of NBA team Milwaukee Bucks.
“While we know that Ange is not at that level now, we also know that the Milwaukee Bucks have scouts watching him,” Baldwin said.
“We know the potential is there but potential takes time to evolve and be realized with a lot of hard work and Ange has never been afraid of putting in that hard work.”
“It is a bit of a gamble because instead of buying the real thing, we believe that we can develop it over time, and given the other talent we have available in the youth ranks right now, we think Ange fits well with them and we think that the chemistry they will develop over the years will pay dividends down the road, although it may also lead to some difficult periods in the short term.”
The 6-foot-10 Kouame will have his mettle tested in their final three games in the Asia Cup Qualifiers as the Philippines goes up against South Korea and Indonesia. (SCHEDULE: Gilas Pilipinas at FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers)
Kouame will face former PBA imports Ricardo Ratliffe of Korea and Lester Prosper of Indonesia.
“We are advancing too quickly with him. We’re putting him into the firing line early. But the other side of that is it’s going to pay dividends later on and he’s going to learn a lot from these experiences,” Baldwin said.
“I’ve always said it’s easier to learn from failure than it is to learn from success and I expect he’s going to have considerable failures over the next couple of years but all of that is going to be a part of his education to become an elite Gilas players for many years to come.” – Rappler.com