THERE’S no need for reigning three-time champion Ateneo to tap another import if and when Blue Eagles center Ange Kouame becomes naturalized Filipino.
Ateneo athletic director and UAAP Board of Managing Directors member Emmanuel Fernandez insisted the Eagles will be an all-Filipino crew once the towering Kouame gets naturalized.
“If ever, all-Filipino na ang Ateneo kasi naturalized na si Kouame,” Fernandez told Malaya-Business Insight.
“In the case of Ateneo, hindi sa iko-consider na foreigner pa rin, hindi na lang kami kukuha, all-Filipino lang kami, technically-speaking kasi naturalized siya,” he added.
Fernandez echoed what Eagles coach Tab Baldwin said last year that the squad is not keen on pouncing on an eligibility loophole.
Ateneo has a stacked line-up and fielding another foreign player will deprive a deserving local the chance to suit up for the squad.
“Kung opinyon ko for Ateneo, tama si Tab (Baldwin). Hindi na puwedeng maglagay pa ng isang foreigner kasi magdi-displace ka ng isa pang Filipino. Aside from spirit of fair play, you have to look at it, loaded din ang Ateneo. So, magtatangal ka ng isang magaling na player para magpasok ng foreigner?” Fernandez posed.
“I don’t know. . . tingin ko mahirap kumuha ng isa pang player in the caliber of Kouame. Bihira iyan. Hindi ka naman basta-basta makakakuha ng magaling na student-athlete.”
In the case of the fancied Katipunan-based five, Fernandez said the Eagles have more than enough firepower.
“At the end of the day decision pa rin naman ng school kung kukuha pa ng isang foreigner kasi hindi naman mandatory na may foreigner ka,” Fernandez said.
“If ever, bakit ka kukuha if hindi mo naman kailangan doon sa line-up mo? At the end of the day, it’s not about being a foreigner or a Filipino, titingnan mo rin naman kung ano ang line-up mo and in this case, magaling iyong foreigner kaya ginagawa nilang Filipino.”
Ateneo lost star wingman Thirdy Ravena, who is proving his worth as an import for San-En NeoPhoenix in the Japan B.League, big man Isaac Go, twins Matt and Mike Nieto, who were tabbed in the special Gilas draft in 2019, and shooter Adrian Wong, now with Rain or Shine.
Fil-Greek big man William Navarro also opted not to play his final year and was taken by NorthPort in the special Gilas draft last Sunday.
Aside from Kouame, playmaker SJ Belangel, wingman Gian Mamuyac, and guard Tyler Tio are likely to return and lead the Eagles’ bid to pull off a ‘four-peat’ in the next UAAP cage wars.
Forward Raffy Verano and shooter Jolo Mendoza are expected to come back to Ateneo after sitting out last season due to academics.
The Eagles will also have blue-chip recruits Dwight and Eli Ramos in the league’s 84th season.