Kouame moves closer to naturalization

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    WITH a 23-0 vote, House bill No. 8632 seeking to grant Filipino citizenship to Ateneo center Ange Kouame was approved yesterday on third and final reading.

    Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas chairman and Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, the principal author of Senate Bill No. 1892, said Kouame is more than willing and ready to don the country’s colors.

    “Kouame is primed to make a significant contribution to Philippine basketball. He is ready to play for the national team. More importantly, he is more than willing to represent our country,” Angara said.

    “Ange is still very young, and his game is still developing. This early we have already seen how good he is playing in the UAAP. He will only improve with his continued training at the hands of our very capable coaching staff and trainers in Gilas Pilipinas,” he added.

    The SBP is planning to field the hulking 6-foot-10 Kouame, a native of Ivory Coast, in coming two international tourneys.

    Gilas is set to do battle in the third window of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers tentatively set from June 14 to 20 in Clark.

    The Philippine five will also try to clinch a Tokyo Games berth in the Olympic qualifying tournament from June 29 to July 4 in Belgrade, Serbia.

    Kouame is also seen as a vital cog in the Filipino dribblers’ campaign in the 2023 FIBA World Cup the country is co-hosting.

    House Bill No. 8631 seeking to naturalize United City FC’s Spanish striker Bienvenido Marañon for the Philippine Azkals also got the nod with a similar 23-0 vote.

    Kouame and Marañon’s citizenship will become official once it gets published in the Official Gazette and a newspaper of general publication.

    Angara amended the proposed bills, stating that the law shall take effect immediately instead of 15 days after publication.

    Kouame averaged 12.5 points and 11.5 rebounds for the Blue Eagles in 2019 where Ateneo bagged its third straight title via a perfect 16-0 season.

    A former Rookie of the Year awardee in 2018, Kouame is still eligible to play for the Eagles for three more years.

    The House of Representatives unanimously approved on third and final reading House Bill No. 8632 authored by deputy speaker Robbie Puno of the 1st district of Antipolo via a 210-0-0 vote last month.