ANGE Kouame is a step closer from fulfilling a life-changing decision of undergoing naturalization process to become a Filipino citizen.
Antipolo City 1st District Rep. Robbie Puno, who authored House Bill No. 5951, an act granting Philippine citizenship to Kouame, has welcomed a major development that will help boost the country’s men’s basketball program.
“HB5951 today obtained committee approval from the Justice Committee. It now moves to the house plenary for 2nd and 3rd reading,”
said Puno in a message to People’s Tonight yesterday.
Puno, who is also the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) vice chairman, is looking forward to have Kouame in the Gilas team as early as the third and final window of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers in February.
“Sana,” said Puno, with a pray emoji on his message.
Kouame was actually included to the 16-man national team pool composed of young guns in the recently-concluded second window in the Manama, Bahrain bubble, but was not able suit up as his naturalization process remains pending.
A native of Ivory Coast, Kouame anchored Ateneo’s run to back-to-back UAAP men’s basketball titles, including last year’s historic
16-0 sweep. He averaged 12.5 points, 14 rebounds and 5.5 blocks per game last season.
Kouame, who is turning 23 this month, is grateful and thankful for the chance to display his talents in the Philippines.
“It’s a really good opportunity sa akin kasi I wouldn’t have even expected this. I’m grateful to represent the country and despite the fact
that I came from Africa, I’m doing it for my family also,” Kouame said in his testimonial on the online hearing.
Meanwhile, the Senate Bill No. 1892 filed by SBP chairman Sen. Sonny Angara, remains pending.
Not only the Gilas program will be the recipient of Kouame’s naturalization that will help in the long run.
Once naturalized, the UAAP will classify Kouame as a Filipino and the Blue Eagles will be allowed to field in a new foreign student-athlete. League rules allow each school to have one foreign student-athlete in the roster.
Kouame, who won the Rookie of the Year honors in 2018, still has three more years of eligibility in the UAAP.