President Rodrigo Duterte approved the naturalization of Gilas Pilipinas player Angelo Kouame after the Chief Executive signed into law the papers that made the center eligible to play for the national team.
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) president Al Panlilio made the announcement Tuesday, May 18, as he expressed his gratitude to the President and other government officials that helped the federation in the process to naturalize Kouame.
“The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) is elated to announce that Angelo Kouame’s Filipino naturalization is now official,” Panlilio, a longtime basketball official, said in a statement.
“The SBP extends our appreciation to President Rodrigo Duterte for signing it into law,” added Panlilio, who also recognized the help extended by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Senator Bong Go.
Also, the SBP chief acknowledged the assistance provided by the two houses, the Congress and the Senate.
From the House of Representatives, Congressman Robbie Puno authored House Bill No. 8632 for the 6-foot-10 Kouame, who won a UAAP championship with the Ateneo Blue Eagles.
In the Senate, Senator Sonny Angara – chairman of the SBP – penned Kouame’s naturalization papers, Senate Bill No. 1892, which got the support from Senators Joel Villanueva and Richard Gordon.
“The SBP thanks all of our allies in both houses whose support has been crucial in pushing this legislation to further strengthen our Gilas Pilipinas Men,” said Panlilio, who also heads the MVP Sports Foundation that provides support to other athletes of the national team like boxing and weightlifting.
According to Panlilio, Koaume will now undergo the final steps required by FIBA before a naturalized player can suit up for a country and he expressed confidence that the Ivory Coast born player will be able to play in two important FIBA-sanctioned meets.
The national team is preparing for the third window of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers scheduled in Clark, Pampanga, as well as the Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) for the Tokyo Olympics in Belgrade, Serbia.
The national team plays South Korea twice, and Indonesia in the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers on June 16 to 20, and then the Filipinos take on the Dominican Republic and host Serbia in the OQT on June 29 to July 4.
While the presence of Kouame is important for the said two events, Panlilio is looking at the future since this development is a crucial step moving forward the preparation of Gilas for the 2023 FIBA World Cup the country will co-host with Japan and Indonesia.
“Having him as an official member of the squad in the upcoming games is an early investment as we build towards the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup. It is a great day for Philippine basketball and we’re thankful for the full support of our basketball community,” he said.
“Kami sa SBP ay naniniwalang ika’y lalaban Para sa Bayan. Maligayang pagbati, Kabayang Ange Kouame (We at the SBP believes that you will fight for the country. We congratulate you Ange Kouame).”
Kouame won Rookie of the Year in the UAAP three years ago as a member of Ateneo’s basketball team, and during the 2019 Season, he helped the Blue Eagles to a 16-0 sweep on their way to the title.
Kouame, who moved to the Philippines in 2016, has career averages of 12.5 points, 11.79 rebounds, and 3.86 blocks. He is currently with the Gilas training pool inside the Inspire Academy in Calamba, Laguna.