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    SBP vice chair Robbie Puno expects to see naturalized Pinoy Kouame in Fiba OQT

    May 18, 2021
    PHOTO: Fiba.basketball | Jerome Ascaño

    FOR someone who championed Ange Kouame's naturalization cause from the very start, it's just right for Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) vice chairman and Antipolo first district Rep. Robbie Puno to feel accomplished.

    The soft-spoken politician and Deputy Speaker couldn't hide his smile on Tuesday as the Ateneo center finally gained his Filipino citizenship.

    "All our hard work has finally paid off and finally, we’ll get to see Ange with Gilas Pilipinas for the upcoming FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament," he said.

    Puno is the principal author of House Bill No. 8632 which sought to grant naturalization status to Kouame in hopes of fielding him for Gilas Pilipinas.

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    Ultimately, the end of the road came on Tuesday when President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law Republic Act No. 11543, making Kouame a full-fledged Filipino.

    "Of course, I thank the President and our colleagues from Congress and the Senate for recognizing the potential of Ange Kouame as a member of our national basketball team. His naturalization also comes at such an opportune time and I am excited to see how his presence will change the game for Gilas this year," he said.

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    SBP chairman Sonny Angara, the principal author of Senate Bill 1892, the Upper House's counterpart of Puno's Congress bill, is grateful to Puno "for his untiring efforts in pushing for this measure's approval."

    "At 6 feet 10 inches, Kouame will definitely beef up our talented Gilas squad and bring with him the hard work and tenacity that has helped deliver championships to the Ateneo Men’s Basketball team in the UAAP. And with the likes of Kai Sotto and Dwight Ramos also committing to be part of the national squad, I am very optimistic about our chances in future international basketball tournaments," Angara added.

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      It's the third player Puno has given Filipino citizenship to, with him also instrumental in leading the naturalization process for Marcus Douthit and Andray Blatche years back.

      Now, Puno gets a chance to bear witness to the fruits of his labor as Kouame is set to make his Gilas Pilipinas debut in the third window of the 2021 Fiba Asia Cup qualifiers in Clark from June 16 to 20.
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      PHOTO: Fiba.basketball | Jerome Ascaño
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