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Angelo Kouame, RJ Abarrientos join Strong Group for Jones Cup

Strong Group-Philippines has further strengthened its lineup for the upcoming 43rd William Jones Cup by signing Angelo Kouame and RJ Abarrientos.

The tournament is set to take place from July 13 to 21, 2024, in Taipei, Taiwan.

Kouame had initially planned to join the Strong Group for the 2023 Dubai International Basketball Championship. However, he was unable to participate due to a bout with dengue.

19th-Asian-Games-Gilas-arrival-Angelo-Kouame Angelo Kouame, RJ Abarrientos join Strong Group for Jones Cup Basketball News  - philippine sports news

Since then, the 6-foot-11 naturalized Filipino has been showcasing his talents in France with Nationale Masculine 1 club UB Chartres Métropole.

During his first year with the Chartres-based club, Kouame, the UAAP Season 84 Most Valuable Player, averaged 10.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks in 22 games.

“Ange has been like a son to our team owner, Boss Frank (Lao). Finally, I will get the chance to coach him, especially after our Dubai stint where he got sick and had to miss the tournament completely,” said Strong Group head coach Charles Tiu.

“I know he’s improved a lot and has been healthy, so that’s a good sign. Whenever it comes to playing for the flag, Ange has always been willing.”

This will mark Kouame’s third appearance in the Jones Cup, having previously played for Ateneo-Pilipinas in the 2018 edition and Rain or Shine last year.

“I’m really, really happy to represent the country again. It’s another opportunity for me to win this competition,” Kouame expressed.

2023-FIBA-WCQ-Gilas-vs.-India-RJ-Abarrientos-4264 Angelo Kouame, RJ Abarrientos join Strong Group for Jones Cup Basketball News  - philippine sports news

Meanwhile, RJ Abarrientos is entering his second year with B.League team Shinshu Brave Warriors.

“RJ was one of our first options for the point guard spot, but we had to wait until he got clearance from Japan and his agent to play,” said Tiu. “I always like guards who can score, so we are excited to have him on the team. When the opportunity to play for the country arose, he immediately said yes!”

After an impressive stint in the Korean Basketball League, where he won the Rookie of the Year award during the 2022-23 season, the 5-foot-11 guard moved out of Ulsan Hyundai Mobis to the Japanese league.

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In his debut season with the Brave Warriors, Abarrientos averaged 7.8 points and 2.4 assists per game.

He is eager to reunite with his Gilas seniors, Kiefer Ravena and Jordan Heading in Strong Group.

“Of course, I’m very excited because it’s my first time on the team, and I’m eager to play with my kuyas and to represent our country again,” Abarrientos said. “I’m also thankful for the opportunity given to me by SGA. I can’t wait to join them and compete on the big stage.”

Also confirmed for Strong Group are Caelan Tiongson and Chris McCullough.

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