Ange Kouame’s naturalization to become Filipino is starting to gain steam.
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas vice chairman Robbie Puno, who is also the representative of Antipolo City’s first district, has already filed House Bill No. 5951.
But many questioned why they handpicked the 6-foot-10 Ivorian — who is just 20 years young — as the first candidate for naturalization. The answer is pretty simple according to Gilas Men program director Tab Baldwin.
“Just the way the FIBA windows are now, a lot of guys just aren’t available when the windows are on. So in the short term, Ange is probably going to be a guy that’s available whenever we need him.
“But we obviously would like to get other candidates who perhaps possibly have more experience or higher caliber player at this point in their careers, and that’s the goal,” said the seasoned international tactician.
For starters, Kouame has been tearing it in the UAAP, averaging 12.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks per game during Ateneo’s 16-game sweep of Season 82.
However, those numbers are at the collegiate level. Outside of the 2018 Jones Cup, Kouame has yet to test himself against international competition.
Baldwin knows that Kouame is still years away from reaching his physical prime.
“There’s still a lot of work that Ange has to do.
“You know, he’s still, offensively, is a below-average center. But we know that he can rebound, he can defend, and I really believe that Filipinos, we have a lot of good scorers. So I think getting him up to speed quickly in that aspect is a secondary issue for us and for him,” admitted Baldwin.
And so, like the rest of the cadets pool, Baldwin looks to develop, hone, and groom Kouame into a better player from now until the 2023 FIBA World Cup.
How can he do it? Well, by fielding Kouame in every international competition possible for the meantime.
“Obviously, we don’t want any holes in the game of our naturalized player, but nobody’s perfect. So it’s just a process, and we’re really looking at 2023 and who that player then going is to be,” shared Baldwin. “And we know that I’m just going to be much, much, much better in 2023.
“So it’s about taking him down that pathway and him helping the national team down that pathway. But also having lots of reserve plans, you know, if the occasion arises.”
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