ANGE Kouame is starting to put up numbers reminiscent of his MVP showing last season, yet Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin said the naturalized center is far from full fitness this late in the UAAP Season 85 men's basketball tournament.
"It's great to see him put up those numbers and play the heavier minutes, up to 30 minutes. But I know what he's doing tomorrow and I know what he did yesterday, and neither of that will be basketball," Baldwin said.
Baldwin spoke after Kouame played big in the Blue Eagles' great 71-65 escape against Far Eastern University on Sunday, where he tallied 20 points, 14 rebounds, and three assists, and one block to help the team improve to an 8-3 record.
But beyond those numbers, Kouame continues to be hobbled by a knee injury that forces the coaching staff to sit the 6-foot-10 center in practices and save him for games.
"That's just life with Ange right now. I think if we do that, then we can get that kind of burst of toughness and energy. But it's not ideal," said Baldwin.
"It looks good when you look at it like that. But as a coach, you're sitting there yesterday, preparing your team, and he's over on the sideline. There's nothing good about that."
Despite the circumstances, Baldwin is just tipping his hat for the kind of effort that Kouame puts up for the Blue Eagles.
"For me, it means an incomplete player who plays with a lot of heart, who plays through pain, and that's to me [is] what makes a guy an MVP," he said.