CHANCES are the Gilas Pilipinas team which will see action in the November window of the 2021 Fiba Asia Cup qualifiers won't just be an all-cadets squad but also an all-local one.
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) special assistant to the president Ryan Gregorio professed that the federation is ready to embrace those prospects with the naturalization of Ange Kouame still pending in the Congress.
"That is really the plan," the executive told 2OT even after the Ateneo center was included in the country's 16-man pool for the planned Fiba bubble in Manama, Bahrain.
Kouame's status is no longer at the hands of the SBP as it pins its hopes on its proponents in the government, both chairman Sen. Sonny Angara in the upper house and vice chair and Antipolo first district Rep. Robbie Puno in the lower house, just to give the Ivorian center a Filipino citizenship.
"Some of the things are beyond our control, but if there's a magic we can do for Kouame to be available come November 27, by all means we’re gonna take it," Gregorio said. "But if not, we understand that there is a process. The government is obviously is trying to do everything it can to fasttrack whatever is necessary."
"It is now in Congress thanks to Sen. Sonny Angara and Cong. Robbie Puno na talagang doing everything just to make sure na the papers are moving. But for this particular window, we are not sure."
To Gregorio, the rationale of including Kouame in the pool despite the slim chance of him suiting up revolves around preparing him for future international tournaments once he gains his naturalization papers.
And the immediate target for that is the next window in February next year, where the Philippines has another pair of games against Korea and Indonesia.
"It is no secret na si Ange Kouame talaga will be part of our national team in the years to come. We are trying to ready Ange come February so the important thing we want to do at this point is for him to be part of the system, part of the pool, understand exactly the system that we are trying to implement, and also the chemistry will play a big factor. That's why we included him in the pool because it is no secret anyway, so might as well utilize him this early as part of our scouting team, for example, and be related on how we want to do things," he said.
And if Kouame ticks every box, the 2023 Fiba World Cup really won't be that far-fetched.
"This is not about the xs and os of basketball. The attitude and character also play a big role and we have to get early on in your practice sessions para lang sigurado na you will be able to embrace the kind of team we want to establish to represent our Gilas Pilipinas in future international competitions," he said.
"What is certain is that Kouame will be part of the journey in the long haul heading to 2023. Yun ang nagbibigay sa atin talaga ng lots of excitement."