Kouame to make Gilas debut in Clark qualifiers after Fiba OK
MANILA, Philippines — Angelo Kouame has been cleared to make his much-awaited debut for Gilas Pilipinas in the Fiba Asia Cup qualifiers in Clark after his registration with Fiba was approved.
Kouame, who acquired a Philippine passport last week, gained Filipino citizenship last month after his naturalization was signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte.
“As we’ve always said, the earlier we see Ange wearing a Gilas jersey for an official FIBA game, the better it would be for our program in the long run,” said Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Al Panlilio.
“We’re thrilled that he’ll get the chance to play in the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers here at home and we cannot wait to see him and the rest of the team in action.”
The 23-year-old center will be Gilas’ third naturalized player after Marcus Douthit and Andray Blatche.
“This decision is consistent with the whole program because it’s a vision to the future,” said Gilas Pilipinas program director Tab Baldwin. “We’ll try to accomplish short-term goals while we’re really focusing on our long-term objective of forming a Gilas team that can genuinely compete with top 10 teams in the world come 2023.”
Baldwin sees a bright future ahead for the Ivorian-born Kouame although it won’t come without any growing pains.
“While we know that Ange is not at that level now, we also know that the Milwaukee Bucks have scouts watching him. We know the potential is there but potential takes time to evolve and be realized with a lot of hard work and Ange has never been afraid of putting in that hard work,” Baldwin said.
“This is a kid that has tremendous potential and he was desperate to become a Filipino. He loves the country and we thought that for a variety of factors, it was a good decision.”
Gilas opens its campaign in the third window of the qualifiers on June 16 against fierce rival South Korea before taking on Indonesia on June 18. The Nationals then, wrap it up against South Korea anew on June 20.
“We are advancing too quickly with him. We’re putting him into the firing line early. But the other side of that is it’s going to pay dividends later on and he’s going to learn a lot from these experiences,” Baldwin said.
“I’ve always said it’s easier to learn from failure than it is to learn from success and I expect he’s going to have considerable failures over the next couple of years but all of that is going to be a part of his education to become an elite Gilas players for many years to come.”
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