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Kouame stays ready

Ange Kouame knows that he has to move a mountain just to crack into the final roster of Gilas Pilipinas in the FIBA Basketball World Cup that the country will host from 25 August to 10 September.

But it doesn’t mean that he will not work hard and stay ready in preparation for a possible call-up.

In a conversation with Daily Tribune, the 25-year-old slotman from Ivory Coast said that he is ready for whatever role that will be given to him when Gilas Pilipinas shifts its training to high gear.

He stressed that although his chances of making the final roster is quite slim, he will embrace his role and do whatever it takes to just in case Chot Reyes considers him to serve as the team’s naturalized player in the biggest, most prestigious basketball tournament in the world.

“Like what I’ve said, whatever the national team needs, I’ll be willing to do it,” Kouame, who powered Ateneo de Manila University to three University Athletic Association of the Philippines titles, said.

After getting naturalized in June 2021, Kouame has served as the pillar of strength of the national team under Kiwi-American tactician Tab Baldwin.

He powered Gilas Pilipinas in the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers as well as in the fifth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.

His impressive performance in both tournaments prompted Reyes to include him in the 20-man World Cup pool together with fellow naturalized players Jordan Clarkson and Justin Brownlee.

Both Clarkson and Brownlee are coming in with stellar credentials.

Clarkson, whose paternal grandmother is from Pampanga, is playing for the Utah Jazz in the National Basketball Association while Brownlee, who got naturalized late last year, is regarded as one of the Philippine Basketball Association’s most decorated foreign players after leading Barangay Ginebra San Miguel to six titles with three Best Import honors.

The International Basketball Federation allows each country to field only one naturalized player and Kouame knows that grabbing the spot from either Clarkson or Brownlee will not be easy.

Still, he keeps on working hard while brushing off what the future holds.

In fact, he is the first naturalized player to report for Gilas training with Clarkson still negotiating his fresh contract with the Jazz and Brownlee still in the United States after being placed under health protocols while visiting his relatives following grueling campaigns in the PBA and the 32nd Southeast Asian Games.

“At the end of the day, I love what I do,” Kouame said, adding that he is thrilled to see Gilas parade a towering frontcourt rotation featuring 6-foot-9 June Mar Fajardo and Japeth Aguilar, 7-foot-2 Kai Sotto, and 6-foot-10 AJ Edu.

Sotto and Edu, however, have yet to go full blast in training.

“It has a lot of potential,” Kouame said, referring to the new breed of Gilas players.

“We’re talking about World Cup. It’s a big tournament and most of the teams are bringing their best players. It’s exciting and highly competitive. I really, really look up to it.”




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