Baldwin heaps praise on defensive specialist Kouame

Published March 28, 2021, 2:19 PM

by Jonas Terrado

Gilas Pilipinas program director Tab Baldwin said Ange Kouame certainly meets every criteria he believes when selecting a naturalized player.

Kouame, a native of Ivory Coast, needs only a signature of President Duterte in order to become a Filipino citizen and be eligible to reinforce Gilas in future international competitions.

Asked during the Power and Play program of former PBA commissioner Noli Eala, Baldwin said Kouame’s defensive ability should serve as complementary to the offensive skills of some of Gilas’ best players.

“Who the most coaches when they are assembling the national team, who they select? Well, you can draw an All-Star team,” Baldwin said in the program that aired Saturday, March 27. 

“Let’s say, we can take any PBA player we want. We take the Roger Pogoys, we take the Paul Lees, we take the CJ Perezs, we take the June Mar Fajardos. All of them are very, very productive offensive players. Well maybe they are good defensive players in their own right, but all of them are sort of the ‘stars’ of the offensive game and they are the best players.

“Right then, selecting a naturalized player would be bringing in a player who we need to put the ball in his hands all the time. Why would we bring in a guy who’s a great rebounder, a great rim protector and becomes a defensive stalwart to play behind these excellent offensive players who are anywhere from good, or should I say mediocre to good defensive players. 

“Why would we bring in another guy who needs to dominate the basketball when you’re a big man. I didn’t see any sense in that,” he added. “So my assembly of potential naturalized players include guys that we believe in as great rebounders, great locker room players, great rim protectors and guys that can play with a lot of energy and be great teammates. And I think Ange Kouame fits all of that.”

Potential naturalized players have been considered over the last few years, namely former San Miguel Beer reinforcement Chris McCullough and Barangay Ginebra resident import Justin Brownlee.

But it was the efforts to naturalize Kouame that not only got the nod of the House of Representatives, but also the Senate.