GILAS Pilipinas did not field a naturalized player in the first two windows of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers and will likely do battle with an all-Filipino line-up in the final leg from Feb. 18 to 22 in Doha.
Should the Philippine five gain a berth in the FIBA Asia Cup set from Aug. 16 to 28 in Indonesia, fans can expect 6-foot-10 Ateneo center Ange Kouame to suit up for the squad.
“Iyong kay (Ange) Kouame, I think within the year for sure maayos natin iyan. It might be a bit tight for February and we knew that early on even when it started in November,” Panlilio said in the recent online Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum, referring to Kouame’s naturalization process.
“We’re hoping for the August FIBA (Asia Cup), hopefully he can already be there,” he added.
The House committee on justice has approved House Bill No. 5951 seeking to grant Filipino citizenship to Kouame, a native of Ivory Coast, last December.
Kouame, 23, is part of the national team training pool toughening up at the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna for the third window.
Panlilio admitted the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas’ bid to make Kouame a Filipino takes a lot of doing, however.
“It’s just a process of going through the second reading, third reading and then for the plenary to really approve it. Similarly, there is already work that is starting in the senate because both the senate and the congress have to pass it,” Panlilio said.
“May passport na siya. When you submit his name to the FIBA, they have to check his status so the basis of his status is really a passport and as you know, the process is once the congress and the senate pass it, it also goes to the president for his approval or signature and then once the president approves it, then his passport can be processed.”
The hulking Kouame averaged 12.5 points and 11.5 rebounds for the Blue Eagles in the last UAAP cage wars. Ateneo bagged its third straight crown via a 16-0 season.
A former Rookie of the Year awardee in 2018, Kouame is still eligible to suit up for the Eagles for three more years.