MANILA -- The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) on Monday welcomed the move to naturalize Ateneo center Ange Kouame, who has played a big role in the Blue Eagles' past two campaigns in the UAAP.
Antipolo Representative Robbie Puno had urged the House of Representatives to naturalize the Ivorian center, who was the UAAP's Rookie of the Year in 2018 and helped Ateneo complete a "three-peat" in 2019.
"We marveled at his performance that helped clinch a 16-0 sweep for the Ateneo Blue Eagles in the 82nd season of the UAAP," Puno said of the 20-year-old Kouame.
"Mr. Kouame may have had little knowledge of basketball before he came to our shores, but we cannot deny the immense potential he has shown by now," he added.
SBP President Al Panlilio said that they appreciated Puno's efforts to grant citizenship to Kouame by filing House Bill No. 5951.
"The Philippines' naturalization process is not easy to accomplish, and it is indeed best to get started early in hopes of building the best possible Gilas Pilipinas squad for the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup," Panlilio said in a statement to ABS-CBN News.
"Starting the process to naturalize Angelo Kouame only scratches the surface of what we could do to look for the best possible talent who can help out our squad," he added.
"The SBP is looking for the best possible candidates for the naturalized spot, and we thank Congressman Robbie for getting the ball rolling."
FIBA allows countries to field one naturalized player. The Philippines previously naturalized Marcus Douthit and Andray Blatche, with the latter playing for Gilas in the 2014 and 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cups.