Kouame: ‘I want 4 more championships’
MANILA, Philippines – After a jittery Game 1 performance, Ateneo's Angelo Kouame redeemed himself to show why he’s deserving of the Rookie of the Year award and the UAAP men’s basketball title.
Kouame got his game back in the series clincher, dominating with 22 points and 20 rebounds to help the Blue Eagles dispose of the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons, 99-81, for their second straight crown.
But after getting a taste of his first title run, Kouame just wants more of it.
“I want 4 more! That's the goal, who's gonna deny that? I still have 4 more years so hopefully those 4 years will be good,” said Ateneo’s Ivorian rookie.
But Kouame's title series debut wasn't easy as he surprisingly had butterfingers and even figured in an incident with UP star Bright Akhuetie which saw the 2018 MVP sustain a hyperextended knee.
The 20-year-old was initially affected by the boos and insults hurled at him by the UP crowd, but it was Akhuetie himself who comforted him.
“That was a kind of motivation for me. Bright is kind of like an older brother to me. We are both from Africa and we understand each other,” recalled Kouame.
“He told me: ‘Just go to your game, play the game, don't mind the crowd... because these things happen.’”
“He told me if it was the same for him, he was gonna be the same, so like, just do your thing and I really appreciate it.”
The 6-foot-10 center listened to Akhuetie’s advice and responded by recording a massive double-double to backstop Thirdy Ravena's 38-point explosion.
“Certainly Ange had a redemption game,” said Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin.
“When you’re going up against a guy like Bright who’s a clever player and extremely strong, it’s not easy for a guy like Ange, so you know, I thought that he had a great game today. A very critical game in terms of our ability to get the lead that we got.”
Just hours before the game, Kouame shone among this year's batch of freshmen to capture the top rookie honors in Season 81.
The 6-foot-10 center emerged as the league's first foreign student-athlete to bag the ROY honors and also the first from Ateneo since Arvin Tolentino won the plum in 2014.
The league only hands out the top rookie honor to players fresh from high school, which makes Kouame eligible for the award as he came to the Philippines in 2016 and studied in Multiple Intelligence high school. (READ: How Angelo Kouame took his game from the streets to the Big Dome).
Kouame tallied 76.2 statistical points to edge out University of Santo Tomas' own rookie sensation CJ Cansino (57.3 SPs).
But with 4 more years left to play in the league, who knows how better Kouame can still get. – Rappler.com
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