Angelo Kouame is all set to don the colors of the Philippines in the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers.
According to Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), the 6-foot-10 stalwart has received the green light from the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) after acquiring his Philippine passport last week, granting him permission to suit up for the men's national team.
This development came on the heels of Kouame's naturalization, which was made official by President Rodrigo Duterte on May 18. SBP decided to naturalize the Ivorian native because he is a young, promising prospect that has the talent, physical makings and attitude to help bring the Philippines to great heights.
"This decision is consistent with the whole program because it's a vision to the future," said Gilas Pilipinas head coach Tab Baldwin about Kouame, who is following the footsteps of Marcus Douthit and Andray Blatche, both of whom were given Filipino citizenship to play for the Philippines.
"We'll try to accomplish short-term goals while we're really focusing on our long-term objective of forming a Gilas team that can genuinely compete with top 10 teams in the world come 2023."
SBP President Al Panlilio also took the time to express delight with the development while sending out words of gratitude to everyone who helped out in making Kouame's Gilas call-up possible.
"As we've always said, the earlier we see Ange wearing a Gilas jersey for an official FIBA game, the better it would be for our program in the long run. We're thrilled that he'll get the chance to play in the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers here at home and we cannot wait to see him and the rest of the team in action," Panlilio said.
"We thank our allies from the Bureau of Immigration, Department of Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, Senate, and Office of the President as it was their swift action that led to this important step in our program."
Kouame's Gilas debut is set on June 16 when the Philippines takes on South Korea in the Clark window of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers. He and the rest of the team will then face Indonesia on June 18 before locking horns once again with South Korea on June 20. They will then shift their focus on the Belgrade Olympic Qualifying Tournament starting June 30.
Ohmer Bautista is a sports journalist who has covered local and international sporting events in the Philippines. The views expressed are his own.
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