'Filipino ako': Angelo Kouame becomes third naturalized player for Gilas in 10 years

Published May 18, 2021, 9:45 PM

by Waylon Galvez

Angelo Kouame is the third foreign player to be naturalized to play for Gilas Pilipinas in 10 years. (SBP Images)

Just hours after President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law the documents, naturalized Filipino Angelo Kouame quickly turned to Twitter to express his short but meaningful message.

“Pre, Filipino ako!”

Since the 6-foot-10 Kouame posted the tweet with an emogi of the Philippine flag using his account @kouameamgelo1 before noon, it already received nearly 7,000 likes, almost 1,000 retweets and more than 100 comments from fellow players and fans.

The naturalization of Kouame was a completion of work from both the private sector with the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas led by its president Al Panlilio, and support from the two houses, the Congress with Rep. Robbie Puno and the Senate with Senator Sonny Angara – also the SBP chairman.

The 23-year-old Kouame is the third foreign player to be naturalized to play for Gilas Pilipinas in 10 years, and first since the naturalization of American Andray Blatche back in May 2014.

Prior to that, Marcus Douthit – also an American – was granted naturalization in March 2011.

Both players suited up for the national team.

Douthit was with the original Smart Gilas Pilipinas in the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship hosted by Wuhan in China and the 2014 Asian Games held in Incheon, South Korea.

As for Blatche, he was with the Philippine Team during the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain, the FIBA Asia Championship in Changsha, China, the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament here, and the 2019 World Cup in China.

Kouame, a native of Ivory Coast, is with the Gilas training pool preparing for three important tournaments this year, including the country’s hosting of Window 3 of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers in Clark, Pampanga, and the 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.

Also, the national team will defend the gold medal in basketball in this year’s Southeast Asian Games in Vietnam.

All these tournaments are in preparation for the 2023 FIBA World Cup the Philippines would co-host with Japan and Indonesia, with the country being the main venue for the knockout matches.