Ange great fit for Gilas
Angelo ‘Ange’ Kouame

Ange great fit for Gilas

Olmin Leyba (The Philippine Star) - February 26, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Philippine coaches and officials see Ateneo slotman Angelo “Ange” Kouame as a great fit for Gilas Pilipinas moving forward.

The 6-foot-10 Kouame, whose naturalization is being processed in Congress, offers mobility and natural talent that Gilas could make good use of in major FIBA tournaments like the 2023 FIBA World Cup.

On top of his quality as a baller, the 23-year-old Kouame’s humility and willingness to listen and learn also make him an ideal part of Gilas’ long-term program.

“He is a good kid, very coachable,” national team coach Jong Uichico told The STAR of the Ivorian-born big man.

Kouame emerged as a top naturalization prospect following his stellar showing for the Blue Eagles. He averaged 12.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, 2.9 blocks and 1.4 assists in leading Ateneo to the UAAP three-peat and 16-0 record in 2019.

He also had his first taste of representing the Philippines internationally when he helped Ateneo to a fourth-place finish in the 2018 Jones Cup.

“He has size, athleticism, (is a good) rim protector and (has) lots of energy,” said Uichico, who had included Kouame in Gilas’ training camps for both the second and third windows of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers to get him accustomed to his future national teammates.

Meralco coach Norman Black, who assisted in the Gilas Calambubble, appreciates Kouame's edge as a big man.

"The advantage of Kouame is his size and his ability to control the paint area . He is a good shot blocker and a very aggressive rebounder. His offensive talents is something he needs to improve on but he is still a young players who has extremely good work habits so he has a good up side.  Black is excited to see Kouame form a twin tower combo with young star Kai Sotto soon.

"His presence along with Kai would certainly give us size that we have never seen before in the Philippine National team," said Black.

Senator and Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas chairman Sonny Angara took notice of Kouame’s ability to protect the rim and keep up with the guard on defense.

“He is a mobile big man who really can defend,” said Angara, who authored one of the bills seeking to grant Philippine citizenship to Kouame.

“The name of the game in basketball now is pick-and-roll but this guy can defend the little guys off the pick-and-roll; the quick point guards, once they set the pick, he can still pop on defense on the little guys and that’s very important in the game now,” he added.

One more plus-factor for Kouame is that he’s very familiar with the system Gilas is running under program director Tab Baldwin, his mentor at Ateneo.

Unlike previous naturalized players Marcus Douthit and Andray Blatche, Kouame developed as a basketball player in the Philippines, his home since 2016.

Kouame only played three-a-side street basketball back in Ivory Coast but learned to play 5-on-5 when he got here.

“He really just immersed himself on 5-on-5 here, learned and improved his skills while with us so he is a Filipino at heart,” said SBP executive director Sonny Barrios.

The third-year Ateneo student said it’s his dream to suit up for Gilas.

“When the national team calls me, I’ll be present because this is what I really wanted, this is what I’ve been dreaming,” Kouame told the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

“I already call the Philippines my home and representing the Philippines is something that comes from the bottom of my heart,” he stressed.

The House of Representatives has already passed the measure seeking to naturalize Kouame. The counterpart bill in the Senate has been approved on the committee level and is set to go to second reading soon.

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