Angelo Kouame
Kouame could be Gilas’ next naturalized player
John Bryan Ulanday (The Philippine Star) - January 22, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Ateneo big man Angelo Kouame could be donning an even nobler blue and white uniform in the future with a possible citizenship naturalization by Congress.

Antipolo First District representative Robbie Puno, who also serves as Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) vice-chairman, has filed a bill, seeking to naturalize the 20-year-old Ivorian center of the Blue Eagles. 

Puno believes Kouame has what it takes to anchor the Philippine national team in many years to come with his potential which he has shown  in the UAAP where he normed  12.5 markers, 11.8 rebounds, 2.9 blocks and 1.4 assists in their title run last year. 

The brilliance of the 6-foot-11 giant helped in a big way in their historic 16-0 season sweep under the mentorship of Tab Baldwin, who also serves as the Gilas Pilipinas program director. 

Should his naturalization process get the nod of Congress sooner than later, the Eagles slotman would be a part of SBP’s plan of assembling a pool of naturalized players for flexibility purposes for different international tournaments including the anticipated 2023 FIBA World Cup. 

“Once Kouame is naturalized, of course, he will be part of the pool,” shared SBP president Al Panlilio to The STAR after hearing the news of Puno’s initiative to help the federation and the national team.

Though FIBA is allowing member federations only one naturalized player in every tournament, each federation is not prohibited from naturalizing more than one prospects that would give them more options on who would they field for certain battles. 

“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,” added Puno who was also behind the naturalization of Marcus Douthit and Andray Blatche. 

“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.” 

But the SBP emphasized that nothing is cast in stone yet as to who would be officially consisting the pool as familiar names like Ginebra resident import Justine Brownlee and ex-SMB reinforcement Chris McCullough are also part of considerations. 

“We have reached out to Chris and he has indicated interest. Regarding Brownlee, I think, a bill for his naturalization has been filed too,” said Panlilio. 

“We haven’t really identified yet who are in the pool. We don’t want to pre-empt the process and discussions. We want to announce in the future when it’s more definitive,” he added.


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