Ange Kouame remembers being in his dwelling in the future, watching on TV as Andray Blatche and Gilas Pilipinas competed in a world meet.
“I used to be watching, I feel, the qualification for World Cup, if I’m not mistaken,” Kouame stated. “And I noticed kuya Blatche enjoying in opposition to Canada, if I’m not mistaken. So from that time on, I used to be ‘Oh, I hope in the future I’d [get to play internationally].”
He’s going to get an opportunity quickly.
President Duterte just lately signed into legislation Kouame’s citizenship, making the Ateneo middle eligible to signify the nation in worldwide meets. However even earlier than issues have been official, Kouame already lived and breathed—and tasted—Filipino.
He’s already tried balut on the urging of a good friend (“I really like the soup, you recognize, however once I bought to the chick …” he stated, shaking his head and laughing). He’s performed barefoot, 3-on-3 road ball (“I attempted it in a seaside in Coron, [Palawan,] with different Filipinos. It hurts so dangerous”) He’s a frequent sari-sari retailer buyer (“Three-in-one espresso, yeah,” he stated, laughing).
However it’s how he has woven himself into the nation’s basketball cloth that has actually validated his id as a Filipino. Aside from having his personal PBA idols (“I like June Mar [Fajardo], I like Japeth [Aguilar]. I like Kiefer [Ravena]. I really like Kiefer, you recognize”), Kouame has exhibited the type of ardour for the game usually hooked up to Filipinos, who’re identified globally for his or her adoration of the sport. Maybe it has one thing to do together with his basketball roots. The Ivorian beanpole took up basketball relatively late, at 16, to assist him recover from a crushing occasion.
“I used to play soccer,” he stated. “However after my dad handed away, basketball was a manner for me to, you recognize, get away from the saddest a part of my life.”
Fairly quickly he made the tough resolution to fly to the nation to play for Ateneo within the College Athletic Affiliation of the Philippines. His mother was hesitant at first, not realizing how he would fare, and even how he could be accepted, within the Philippines.
As quickly as he landed, although, Kouame felt proper at dwelling.
“I feel the best way persons are pleasant right here within the Philippines, that’s what makes me [comfortable],” he stated.
It additionally helped that Ateneo welcomed him with open arms.
“How [the Eagles] embraced the system and the way they cherished to be part of a bunch of brothers, for me I actually felt at dwelling within the first day.”
Kouame’s naturalization gained approval—and generated pleasure—from 4 former nationwide coaches.
Meralco coach Norman Black stated Kouame offers the nation the scale it has lengthy pined for. “I imply, the Philippines is aware of me extra about my defensive skill,” Kouame stated. “I take advantage of my measurement, my size … to cowl a number of issues on the courtroom.”
TNT coach Chot Reyes stated that being based mostly within the Philippines makes Kouame an important match for the nationwide program as he won’t simply study the system however get to actually know his teammates.
“[M]y teammates, I really like them to demise,” Kouame stated. “[We] have good chemistry. Jokes [all] round. It’s all love, you recognize.”
2023 World Cup
Jong Uichico, who coached Gilas Pilipinas within the final Fiba (Worldwide Basketball Federation) Asia Cup qualifying window, stated the 23-year-old Kouame’s most tantalizing characteristic is his upside, particularly because the nation prepares to cohost—and compete in—the 2023 Fiba World Cup.
“That’s the purpose,” stated the 6-foot-10 middle. “Each participant … desires to be [in the World Cup]. So if I’m in a position to be current in World Cup 2023, it’s gonna be a [blessing] to me. I pray to God that it’s gonna occur. And I’ll be ready for it. All the days [that] I’m practising, [I’m] fascinated about it.”
And most significantly, NLEX coach Yeng Guiao stated, being right here makes Kouame extra emotionally invested in Philippine basketball. “It’s not all about cash for Kouame,” stated Guiao.
“It’s truly true,” Kouame stated. “Cash simply helps you on sure issues, but it surely doesn’t imply [everything].
“I’ve been right here for 5 years. Each time, I really feel love. So why would I not attempt to ship the identical love again, you recognize?”
The love he desires to repay, he stated, is the principle purpose why he sought Filipino citizenship. And Kouame desires to provide his all in representing the nation by being the perfect that he may be as a naturalized participant.
“It’s an extended course of, however I’ll attempt to get there in God’s time and focus getting myself higher.” Spoken like a real Filipino.
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