UAAP: Ange Kouame not letting knee injury get in the way of leading Ateneo
MANILA, Philippines — Reigning MVP Ange Kouame continues to deliver for Ateneo despite having yet to fully recover from his knee injury.
The naturalized Gilas Pilipinas center posted 17 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, and three blocks as Ateneo earned its second straight win in the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball tournament after beating National University, 77-60, on Wednesday at Philsports Arena.
Although he has yet to regain his top form after a partial ACL tear he suffered last June, Kouame is not letting it affect his eagerness to help the Blue Eagles.
“I don’t think about it. I just go to the game, play the game the way I always play. If it hurts, it hurts, If it doesn’t, I can go,” he said.
“It feels good, I’m really happy how the team can work together. But (there is) still a lot to (improve for me), the wins and especially defense, too. I think we’re gonna go back tomorrow on what we should be doing for the next game.”
The 24-year-old big man, who is playing his final UAAP season, has been instrumental in Ateneo’s first two wins, averaging 14.5 points, 13.0 boards, 3.0 blocks, and 2.5 assists.
The Blue Eagles coach Tab Baldwin remains patient on the progress of his 6-foot-10 center, lauding Kouame for doing more than expected despite the injury.
“The knee’s just not a healthy knee. That’s a fact of life. There’s nobody that can exploit it, because he only has one gear. It’s all out. I think he still is short of his rhythm, his coordination,” Baldwin said. “You take a 7-foot, 23-, 24-year old player who’s been in the game for four, five years, and you sit him out for two months? Man, that’s tough on him. He’s doing more than I expect at this point.”
Baldwin hopes Kouame continues to recover as the long season goes on.
“He makes mistakes, and some of those mistakes probably wouldn’t have been there if he had been fully active for the last four months. But he wasn’t, so that’s what we live with, and I like our team. I like him anchoring the middle. I just hope the knee holds up,” the Kiwi-American coach said.
Ateneo, which seeks to reclaim the title this season, eyes its third straight win against fierce rival, La Salle on Sunday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.