ATENEO slotman Ange Kouame is being eyed to be a part of the naturalized players pool as Gilas Pilipinas starts the process of forming a new core in the buildup for the 2023 Fiba World Cup.
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) vice-chairman and Antipolo First District representative Robbie Puno has filed House Bill No. 5951, seeking to grant Philippine citizenship to the Ivorian center.
"We marveled at his performance that helped clinch a 16-0 sweep for the Ateneo Blue Eagles in the 82nd Season of the UAAP. Mr. Kouame may have had little knowledge of basketball before he came to our shores, but we cannot deny the immense potential he has shown by now,” said the lawmaker.
Kouame, 20, averaged 12.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, 2.9 blocks, and 1.4 assists this past season as the Blue Eagles completed a perfect run to a third successive UAAP title.
The SBP is seeking to form a pool of naturalization players, giving the national team flexibility in terms of who to tap for specific international tourneys.
Resident Ginebra import Justin Brownlee and former San Miguel reinforcement Chris McCullough were earlier tipped as potential naturalization prospects.
Fiba Internal Regulations allows national teams to enlist one naturalized player for its sanctioned tourneys, one that the Philippines has utilized before with Marcus Douthit and Andray Blatche.
Puno also filed the bill for Blatche's naturalization.
Puno sees Kouame's entry to the naturalized players pool as a big boost for Gilas Pilipinas, especially as it prepares for the global hoops showcase three years from now.
"This pool of players would be valuable to our national team because the team would have more naturalized players to field in the case of injuries,” he said.
"Such a resource would be useful because we would be able to match what we need to win from a roster of naturalized players. The choice would never be just one player. We could have Mr. Kouame and many other promising athletes there, ready to be assigned to a match as needed."