Ange Kouame's naturalization now official

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 18 2021 11:49 AM | Updated as of May 18 2021 01:38 PM

Ange Kouame's naturalization now official 1
Gilas Pilipinas center Ange Kouame. Photo courtesy of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas​

MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) Ateneo de Manila University center Ange Kouame is officially a Filipino citizen, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) announced on Tuesday after the bill for his naturalization was signed into law.

"The SBP extends our appreciation to President Rodrigo Duterte for signing it into law and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Senator Bong Go for their assistance," SBP president Al Panlilio said in a statement.

Kouame hails from the Ivory Coast but has spent the last few years in the Philippines, studying in Ateneo and playing for the Blue Eagles. He was the UAAP's Rookie of the Year in Season 81 and helped Ateneo complete a perfect 16-0 campaign in Season 82. 

According to the SBP, Kouame will now undergo the final steps required by FIBA before a naturalized player can suit up for a country.

"We are confident that he’ll be able to play during our hosting of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers and the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Serbia," said Panlilio.

"Although Kouame's presence is crucial for these two tournaments, 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," he added.

"It's a great day for Philippine basketball and we're thankful for the full support of our basketball community."

A delighted Kouame celebrated the news on Twitter, where he proudly proclaimed: "Pre, Filipino ako!" 

Kouame is expected to be the defensive anchor of a young Gilas Pilipinas team that will compete in the upcoming FIBA events. The SBP is sending an all-cadet squad to both tournaments, which will likely coincide with the upcoming PBA season.

The 23-year-old Kouame averaged 12.5 points, 11.79 rebounds, and 3.86 blocks per game for Ateneo in Season 82. 

He has been training with the Gilas Pilipinas pool since last year, in preparation for the FIBA Asia qualifiers. 

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