The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) has cleared Angelo Kouame to join Gilas Pilipinas in the Clark window of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers.
The naturalized Filipino’s FIBA registration has received approval after he acquired his Philippine passport last week.
Naturalizing Kouame is a unique step that the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) decided to take because of his youth.
After Marcus Douthit and former NBA player Andray Blatche in the last few years, the SBP decided to go with a player who has the potential to play well but does not have their level of experience yet.
“This decision is consistent with the whole program because it’s a vision to the future,” said Gilas Pilipinas Men Program Director Tab Baldwin.
“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.”
Kouame’s naturalization process started early in 2020. It became official last May 18 after President Rodrigo Duterte signed it into law.
The 6-foot-11 big man has been training with Gilas since the Manama window of the Qualifiers.
“This is a kid that has tremendous potential and he was desperate to become a Filipino. He loves the country and we thought that for a variety of factors, it was a good decision.”
Kouame will go up against the likes of Indonesia’s Lester Prosper and South Korea’s Ra Gun-A in Clark. He will then face NBA-level players in the Belgrade Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
And for Baldwin, he knows that his ward will be up to the challenge.
“We are advancing too quickly with him. We’re putting him into the firing line early. But the other side of that is it’s going to pay dividends later on, and he’s going to learn a lot from these experiences,” Baldwin said.
“I’ve always said it’s easier to learn from failure than it is to learn from success. and I expect he’s going to have considerable failures over the next couple of years. But all of that is going to be a part of his education to become an elite Gilas player for many years to come.”
SBP President Al Panlilio, meanwhile, expressed that he felt elated with the development. The federation also remains thankful to everyone who worked hard to make it possible.
“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,” said Panlilio.
“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.”