FIBA: Panlilio wants at least 3 naturalized players

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 01 2020 01:53 PM | Updated as of Mar 01 2020 09:53 PM

MANILA, Philippines – Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) has started the naturalization process of Ateneo center Ange Kouame, but President Al Panlilio says they cannot stop there.

Kouame hails from the Ivory Coast and has been the defensive anchor of the Blue Eagles for the past two UAAP seasons. 

Last January, Antipolo Representative Robbie Puno – also the vice-chairman of the SBP – filed a bill seeking to grant Philippine citizenship to Kouame in the hopes of making him available to the men's national basketball team. Kouame would later express his intent to play for Gilas Pilipinas.

"We've just put the name of Angelo Kouame in the process," Panlilio recently told reporters, when asked about the possibility of getting a naturalized player for Gilas.

"Ideally for me, if we can have three names, then you also have options depending on who you're playing with," he added. "Hopefully, injuries don't affect us, (but) you can have back-ups. So that's a work in progress."

As of the moment, Koume and celebrated Barangay Ginebra import Justin Brownlee are being eyed for naturalization. There are other candidates, including Chris McCullough, who helped San Miguel Beer win the 2019 PBA Commissioner's Cup title.

Panlilio confirmed that they have reached out to McCullough, who previously expressed his desire to be a naturalized player as well.

"He's committed to be part of it. I guess at the end of the day, commitment and an agreement on a commercial term is different. We're in the early stages of talking to him," Panlilio said.

According to him, getting a naturalized player is also highly dependent on who the coach will be.

"Baka mamaya, ibang player ang gusto niya, 'di ba?" he said. "So we want to make sure lang that we don't get somebody that might not fit the program."

"It's quite a difficult time to decide," he admitted. "So my first task in fact is to really maybe start the search for a full time coach for the national team. It starts from there."

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