MANILA, Philippines -- The bid to naturalize Ivorian center Ange Kouame of Ateneo de Manila University has gotten more support.
Senator Sonny Angara announced Sunday that he filed Senate Bill 1892 last Thursday, which calls for the granting of Philippine citizenship to Kouame.
The bid to naturalize the 20-year-old Kouame is still part of the Gilas Pilipinas program's build-up to the 2023 FIBA World Cup, which the country is co-hosting with Indonesia and Japan.
SB 1892 is a counterpart of House Bill 5951 filed by Antipolo City Rep. Robbie Puno.
Angara and Puno serve as chairman and vice-chairman of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, respectively.
"We have seen what Kouame has accomplished as a member of the Ateneo Blue Eagles in the past three years, and his game continues to develop," Angara said in a statement.
"We have not seen the full potential of Kouame yet and his desire to continue developing his game here in the Philippines is something that is worth supporting," he added.
Kouame was the UAAP Rookie of the Year in Season 81, when he helped the Blue Eagles win a second consecutive men's basketball championship. He was their defensive anchor in Season 82, when Ateneo won all 16 of their games en route to a "three-peat."
Last season, Kouame averaged 12.5 points, 11.79 rebounds, and a league-leading 3.86 blocks per game while shooting 53.7% from the field.
"Ange has also shown a strong desire to continue living in the Philippines, which has been his home since 2016. I have no doubt he will provide an invaluable contribution to Philippine hoops for many years to come," said Angara.
Kouame is expected to be a part of the pool of naturalized players for Gilas Pilipinas, and should be available to play for the national team until he turns pro.
This is not the first time that the Philippines has sought for the naturalization of athletes to help bolster the lineup of the Philippine men's national team.
Congress previously granted Philippine citizenship to Marcus Douthit and Andray Blatche, who both contributed to the development of the national team.
Douthit was an integral part of the Gilas squad that won silver in the 2013 FIBA Asia Cup, while Blatche played for the Philippines in the 2014 and 2019 editions of the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
Aside from Kouame, the SBP is also considering Ginebra's Justin Brownlee and San Miguel's Chris McCullough as candidates for naturalization.