By Romer R. Butuyan
MANILA – Deputy Speaker and Antipolo City 1st District Rep. Robbie Puno on Wednesday welcomed the House Committee on Justice’s approval of the measure moving for the naturalization of Ateneo Blue Eagles’ Ivorian center Ange Kouame.
“I am thankful that my colleagues in the House of Representatives recognize the potential Mr. Kouame, who gave a stunning performance in the 82nd Season of the UAAP, can bring to our national team as they prepare to compete in the 2023 FIBA World Cup,” according to Puno, also the vice chairman of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP).
“He’s just turning 23 years old before the end of the year, but no one can doubt the immense talent of Mr. Kouame, as shown in the recent 16-0 sweep of the Ateneo Blue Eagles in the recent UAAP season,” the lawmaker added.
Puno is hopeful that Kouame will bring the same level of intensity as a member of Gilas Pilipinas.
Born Kakou Ange Franck Williams Kouame, he was the first ever foreign student-athlete to win Rookie of the Year in 2018. During his UAAP stint, the Ivorian big man averaged 12.5 points, 14 rebounds, and 5.5 blocks.
Puno strongly believes that a pool of naturalized players will improve the national team’s chances in the 2023 FIBA World Cup.
FIBA Internal Regulations allows a national basketball team to have one player who has acquired the legal nationality of the country by naturalization or by any other means after having reached the age of 16, a rule which the House official pointed out “many member countries have used to their advantage.”
According to Puno, so far, the Philippines only fielded two naturalized players, namely, Marcus Douthit and Andray Blatche. (FC/MTVN)