Olmin Leyba (The Philippine Star) – March 4, 2021 – 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The bid to get Gilas Pilipinas prospect Angelo Kouame naturalized possibly in time for the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers got a major boost with Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go and his colleagues rallying behind the bill seeking his Philippine citizenship.

Go, chair of the sports committee and a basketball enthusiast, said the 6-foot-10 Kouame would be a vital asset to the Gilas team and Philippine basketball.

“In granting Kouame Philippine citizenship, we will definitely bolster our country’s chances in several upcoming basketball tournaments, including the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers,” Go said as he co-sponsored the Kouame naturalization measure in the Senate plenary Tuesday night.

“But beyond that, we would have a new brother that we can proudly call ‘Filipino’,” he added.

The hope is to complete the naturalization process soon with Gilas set for tough campaigns in the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers in Clark, which may be rescheduled to late March, and the ultra-competitive FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament scheduled in June in Serbia.

Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Committee on Justice, sponsored House Bill No. 8632 under Committee Report No. 189, with Go, Sonny Angara, and Joel Villanueva as co-sponsors.

Ivorian-born Kouame, 23, is being groomed to step into big shoes left by former Gilas naturalized players Marcus Douhit and Andray Blatche for the tough battles ahead.

Go took notice of Kouame’s determination to succeed, saying: “He endured the language barrier and learned all about the basics of full 5-on-5 basketball here, all while learning our customs, traditions, and ideologies.”

“Without a doubt, Kouame has proven himself with his dedication to his craft. He continues to dedicate his basketball skills to the Philippines. He loves the rabid Filipino basketball fanbase. He loves this country. He even has our flag on his Instagram account,” said Go.

Pinoy hoops fans are so looking forward to the day when Kouame joins 7-foot-3 young star Kai Sotto in an exciting Twin Tower Combo for Gilas leading into the 2023 FIBA World Cup that the country will be co-hosting.





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