By WAYLON GALVEZ
Gilas Pilipinas recruit Angelo Kouame and Philippine Azkals player Bienvenido Maranon just need the “signature” of President Duterte to become naturalized Filipino citizens.
This came after their naturalization papers were both approved by the Senate on the third and final reading Monday night.
Duterte has the final say on whether to grant the Filipino citizenship on Maranon and Kouame or not.
It just took the Senate 20 days to approve the two bills, which initially got the approval from Congress on House Bill No. 8632 for Kouame and House Bill No. 8632 for Maranon.
The papers have to be signed into law by Duterte, similar to what happened to former Gilas Pilipinas naturalized players Marcus Douthit and Andrey Blatzhe, who both played important roles for the national team.
The approval of Senate on Kouame’s naturalization helps his bid to play for the Philippines in the Window 3 of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers in June here, and in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Serbia this July.
“Kouame is primed to make a significant contribution to Philippine basketball,” Senator Sonny Angara, the principal author of Senate Bill 1892, said. “He is ready to play for the national team.”
“More importantly, he is more than willing to represent our country.”
Angara said the Kouame, who is from Ivory Coast, is confident that his stint with Gilas Pilipinas under project director Tab Baldwin and coach Jong Uichico will only improve his skills.
Aside from the two events, Gilas is also preparing for the 2023 FIBA World Cup, which the country will co-host with Japan and Indonesia. The 6-foot-10 Kouame is already in the training pool of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas under its president Al Panlilio.
As for Maranon, who is from Spain, he is expected play for the Azkals in the AFC Challenge Cup.
Meantime, Gilas Pilipinas is back on training camp as 27 players and coaches reentered the bubble Monday at Inspire in Calamba, Laguna.
In a list provided by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, the four players picked during the Gilas Pilipinas Special PBA Rookie Draft last Sunday were on the list, and these are Filipino-Australian Jordan Heading, Tzaddy Rangel, William Navarro and Jaydee Tungcab.
Heading, who played for California Baptist University – a Division 1 school – in the US NCAA, was selected No. 1 overall by Terrafirma, while NorthPort took Navarro at No. 2 overall, Rangel went to NLEX at third, and TNT picked Tungcab at fourth overall.
The other players are Justine Baltazar, Carl Tamayo, RJ Abarientos, Dwight Ramos, Lebron Lopez, Dave Ildefonso, Troy Mallillin, Josh Lazaro, Jason Credo, Chris Koon, Kyle Ong, Geo Chui, Sj Belangel, Gian Mamuyac and naturalized prospect Angelo Kouame.
The national team took a two-week break from training after their initial bubble training camp at the same facility.