ANGELO Kouame clarified on Saturday that his bump on UP counterpart Bright Akhuetie wasn't at all intentional as the Ateneo slotman defended himself from detractors.
"That wasn't intentional," he said on the heels of the Blue Eagles' 88-79 Game One victory over the Fighting Maroons to take a 1-0 lead in the UAAP Season 81 Finals.
"People can get mad, but it wasn't intentional. I wanted to go up but he was on my way. I didn't know what really happened."
Akhuetie just got down on defense but got kneed by Kouame that led to him hurting his left knee. UP doctors initially ruled it as a hyperextended knee that caused him to be subbed out at the 6:31 mark of the third quarter.
The Nigerian center did return at the 7:04 mark of the fourth period, but was obviously out of his element, finishing with 10 points, five rebounds, and three steals.
Kouame shared that he tried to apologize to Akhuetie when they met anew, but the Season MVP didn't want any part of it.
"I apologized to him but he didn't want to understand. I get it, I get his irritation, and I can't complain about it," he said. "I'm really sorry about that. It's the game of basketball, anything can happen. I'm really sorry about that if that offended people."
Akhuetie declined interviews as UP PTs rushed him to Philippine General Hospital to get an MRI.
Kouame, meanwhile, didn't escape the rowdy boos from the UP side whenever he got the ball as he finished t he game with seven points and 12 rebounds in the win.
Though Kouame may be seen as enemy number one in the eyes of the Fighting Maroons faithful, his comrades in the Blue Eagles' nest did come to his defense.
"Knowing Ange, he’s probably the most gentle (foreign student-athlete). Di naman siya pupunta sa game na mananakit," said Thirdy Ravena. "Kilala ko si Ange. It happens in basketball, may sinasaktan, may nahuhulog, but yung kay Ange, hindi naman niya sinasadya. It was just part of the game."
Coach Tab Baldwin agreed, saying that the Ateneo also wishes nothing but the best for Akhuetie.
"I felt bad for Bright, it looked like a serious injury, and I’m happy it wasn’t," he said.
Though his side came out on top, the Ivorian center admitted that somehow, those boos took a toll on him.
"We're all players, but I still had to stay focused on the game. It had an effect on me. It had an impact on me, especially right now, and I really feel that," said Kouame.
"I never thought that it's gonna happen, but this has already happened and I have to accept that and live with that. It's my rookie year and I know more things are gonna happen. Hopefully, I'll be ready for that."