WITH Ange Kouame a signature from the President away from being a full-fledged Filipino citizen, his Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin reiterated how much of a fit the 6-foot-10 center is to the future of Gilas Pilipinas.
The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) program director reiterated to Radyo5's Power and Play with Noli Eala how valuable Kouame will be for the national team of his adopted country moving forward.
"I want everyone to stop for a second and think rationally, 'Who do most coaches when assembling their national team, who do they select?'" he pondered.
"You can go to an All-Star team, get all the PBA players that we wanted, we take the Roger Pogoys, Paul Lees, CJ Perezes, June Mar Fajardos, all of them are very productive offensive players. There maybe good defensive players, but all of them are sort of the stars of the offensive game and they're our best players."
He then argued, "Why then, in selecting a naturalized player, would we bring in a naturalized player that needs to have the ball in his hands all the time?"
"Why not bring a player who's a great rebounder, a great rim protector, and a defensive stalwart to play behind these excellent offensive players who are anywhere from mediocre to good defensive players, and certainly has the potential to be very good defenders? Why would we bring in another guy who needs to dominate the basketball when you bring him in?"
Baldwin presents a valid argument, noting that as good as the locals are in the offensive end, what's expected more from the taller naturalized player will be his rebounding and defensive attributes.
Besides Kouame, among those who the SBP considered for naturalization were Ginebra's resident import Justin Brownlee and former San Miguel reinforcement Chris McCullough.
Kouame, the 23-year-old center from Ivory Coast and the UAAP Season 81 Rookie of the Year, ticks everything on Baldwin's checklist.
He averaged 12.9 points on 54-percent shooting from the field and 37-percent from threes, to go with 11.8 rebounds, and 3.7 blocks, and 1.4 assists in 24 minutes to help the Blue Eagles complete the three-peat in UAAP Season 82.
"My assembly of potential naturalized players includes guys that we believe in as great rebounders, great locker room players, great rim protectors, and guys that play with a lot of energy and will be great teammates," he said.
"And I believe Ange Kouame fits all of that."