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Kouame ready for national duty

Ateneo de Manila University center Ange Kouame expressed commitment to suit up for Gilas Pilipinas for a couple of road games in the fifth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers next week.

The 6-foot-10 big man’s presence is a huge shot in the arm for Gilas, who will battle Jordan and Saudi Arabia on 10 and 13 November, respectively.

Despite nursing a banged-up knee — the same injury that forced him to skip national team duties since June — Kouame is raring to don the tricolor making himself available for Gilas as the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 85 men’s basketball tournament goes on a break.

“If I’m part of the lineup, I’m happy to join. At the end of the day, it’s something I love to do, playing basketball. If they call me, I will represent the country for sure,” the reigning UAAP Most Valuable Player, who had a double-double of 11 points and 14 rebounds with five blocks and three steals in the Blue Eagles 68-54 rout of archrival De La Salle University on Saturday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The naturalized player said that he is good to join Gilas squad that will fly to Jordan on Monday.

“Pretty good. For now, I’m still talking to the doctors if I should get surgery at the end of the season. But it will depend on how things go and how I feel at the end of the season. You’ll never know,” he said.

Gilas will need Kouame’s inside presence with San Miguel Beer star June Mar Fajardo unavailable and University of the Philippines forward Carl Tamayo begging off due to a foot injury.

Kouame averaged 5.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in two games he played in the Asian qualifier.

The 24-year-old banger is also excited to learn and play from PBA players, especially Barangay Ginebra San Miguel’s Japeth Aguilar.

“I’m really excited, especially during practice lately. To be able to see them, I was able to learn much from them too. It keeps me going because I’m trying to be like them, a professional one day. I’m really excited to play with them,” Kouame said.

“For sure, Kuya Japeth. He’s been with the team for a long time so I ask around everybody, also Chris (Newsome) when he was still part of the team. Right now, I don’t know if he’s still gonna play but there’s so many people that I talk to and I try to learn from,” he added.

Kouame is also optimistic about Gilas’ chances of sweeping their road games.

“For sure. This is good because we’re really hungry. We’ve seen the lineup, I think everybody deserves to be there. So, I think it’s possible to get the sweep,” he said.

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