By WAYLON GALVEZ
President Rodrigo Duterte approved the naturalization papers of Ateneo star Angelo Kouame, making him eligible to play for the national team in three important events this year.
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) President Al Panlilio made the announcement Tuesday as he expressed his gratitude to the President and other government officials who helped the federation in the process to make Kouame a naturalized Filipino citizen.
“The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) is elated to announce that Angelo Kouame’s Filipino naturalization is now official,” Panlilio, a longtime basketball official, said in a statement.
“The SBP extends our appreciation to President Rodrigo Duterte for signing it into law,” added Panlilio, who also recognized the help extended by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Senator Bong Go.
Also, the SBP chief acknowledged the assistance provided by Rep. Robbie Puno and Senators Sonny Angara, Joel Villanueva and Richard Gordon.
According to Panlilio, Koaume will now undergo the final steps required by FIBA before a naturalized player can suit up for a country.
The national team is preparing for Window 3 of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers scheduled in Clark, Pampanga, as well as the Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) for the Tokyo Olympics in Belgrade, Serbia.
He is also expected to lead the country in the Vietnam SEA Games this November.
Panlilio is likewise looking at the future since this development is a crucial step moving forward the preparation of Gilas for the 2023 FIBA World Cup the country will co-host with Japan and Indonesia.
“Having him as an official member of the squad in the upcoming games is an early investment as we build towards the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup. It is a great day for Philippine basketball and we’re thankful for the full support of our basketball community,” he said.
Kouame won Rookie of the Year in the UAAP three years ago as a member of Ateneo’s basketball team, and during the 2019 Season, he helped the Blue Eagles to a 16-0 sweep on their way to the title.