Gregorio: SBP finalizing Kouame’s naturalization status with Fiba
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) special assistant to the president Ryan Gregorio confirmed an earlier report that Ange Kouame had already gotten hold of his Philippine passport, calling the development “one less distraction” for a national team preparing for two major international tournaments.
All that’s left now is to process Kouame’s personal entry into the International Basketball Federation’s (Fiba) database.
“What we’re trying to do now is include him in the Fiba Map (a database of basketball players) so that he’ll be eligible to play as a naturalized Filipino,” said Gregorio, a multititled former PBA coach, in an interview with SportsIQ on Friday.
PassportThe Inquirer reported earlier this week that Kouame had already received his passport and had completed his naturalization process with the Immigration bureau.
“That is one less distraction as far as our preparation is concerned,” said Gregorio.
Gilas Pilipinas is currently preparing for a Fiba Asia Cup qualifying window scheduled this month in Clark Freeport, Pampanga. The national team needs to secure just one win out of three games to book a berth in the Asian championship set in August in Indonesia.
The team is also preparing for an Olympic-qualifying tournament in Serbia.
Kouame’s naturalization began in the House of Representatives after Deputy speaker Roberto “Robbie” Puno, Antipolo City 1st District Representative, filed House Bill No. 5951, which was recommended for approval through House Bill No. 8632 in February 2021 in Congress.
OpportunityThe Senate then approved House Bill No. 8632 during a plenary session, taking into consideration Senate Bills No. 1892 and 2058 filed by Sen. Sonny Angara with Sen. Joel Villanueva, and Sen. Richard Gordon, respectively, in March 2021.
Gregorio said having the 6-foot-11 Kouame as a naturalized center presents the SBP with an opportunity to further develop a young big man without needing to scout another foreign player outside the country.
A two-time University Athletic Association of the Philippines champion with Ateneo, and a Rookie of the Year to boot, Kouame is a valuable presence in the paint on both ends of the floor, according to Gregorio.
“He knows exactly the system we’re running under [program director] coach Tab [Baldwin]. He has incredible instincts in the defensive end,” said Gregorio, a former PBA coach of the year awardee. “This is what he brings to the table for all of us, a lot of defensive presence and a lot of rebounding.”
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