The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas hopes that Ange Kouame’s naturalization process gets completed in time for the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers’ third and final window set next month at the Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga.
“Inaasahan natin na by the time we go to Clark, e ayos na ayos na ‘yung papeles ni Ange Kouame,” SBP SAP Ryan Gregorio told The Chasedown, Saturday.
“That is an expectation for us. It is part of our wishlist.”
The 23-year-old Ivorian is now a step closer to becoming a Filipino when the Philippine Senate unanimously approved House Bill No. 8632 (an act granting Philippine citizenship to Ange Franck Williams Kouame) last March 15.
That bill was approved alongside HB 8631 for Spanish footballer Bienven Marañon, who is expected to be a shot in the arm for the Philippine Azkals after impressing for Ceres Negros and United City in the Philippines Football League.
With this, the approval of granting Filipino citizenship to both athletes is now in the hands of Malacañang Palace, as the signature of President Rodrigo Duterte is the only one needed to turn the bills into law.
The bill lapses into law on Monday.
“We know that ‘yung both Houses, nilagdaan na ‘yung papeles ni Ange Kouame. I think the next level is… it is being transmitted now to the Office of the President and we are just waiting for the actual signature,” Gregorio said.
The SBP is fully aware that the process will not be easy, but the federation remains optimistic that it will have the Ateneo big man in Clark.
Gilas Pilipinas will definitely need the 6-foot-10 slotman in the upcoming cage competition set on June 16-20, as opponents South Korea and Indonesia will both parade their own naturalized players.
Both teams have former PBA imports in tow, with Ricardo Ratliffe bannering the Koreans and Lester Prosper reinforcing the ASEAN cagers.
“We’re optimistic. Sana mabigyan ng pagkakataon na malagdaan. Kasi after that, papasok na of course ‘yung issuance of passport, yung mga panunumpa, and all that. It is not going to be a quick process,” Gregorio said.
“We’ve done the work necessary for us to get approval from Congress and even the Senate and all that. Malapit na, in other words. And we’ve been very patient, and we’ll still continue to be patient. We will be rewarded in the end.”