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Sen. Angara bats for naturalization of Kouame

Senator Sonny Angara has endorsed the proposed entry of Angelo Kouame to Gilas Pilipinas with the filing of a bill calling for the grant of Philippine citizenship to the standout from the Ivory Coast.

Angara, who is chairman of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), filed Senate Bill 1892 on Thursday as part of the country's ongoing efforts to build up its national team in time for the 2023 World Cup.

Senate Bill 1892 is a counterpart of House Bill 5951 filed by SBP vice chairman, Antipolo City Rep. Robbie Puno.

"We have seen what Kouame has accomplished as a member of the Ateneo Blue Eagles in the past three years and his game continues to develop. We have not seen the full potential of Kouame yet and his desire to continue developing his game here in the Philippines is something that is worth supporting," Angara said.

"Ange has also shown a strong desire to continue living in the Philippines, which has been his home since 2016. I have no doubt he will provide an invaluable contribution to Philippine hoops for many years to come," he added.

At age 20, Kouame is expected to be part of the pool of naturalized players of Gilas Pilipinas and should be available to play for the national squad until he turns pro.

Standing at a little under 7 feet, Kouame averaged 12.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, 2.9 blocks and 1.4 assists a game in Season 82 of the UAAP, which saw a 16-0 sweep by Ateneo.

This is not the first time that the Philippines has sought for the naturalization of athletes to help bolster the lineup of the Philippine men's national team.

Congress previously granted Philippine citizenship to Marcus Douthit and Andray Blatche, who both contributed to the development of the national team.

Other countries have been doing the same for years as a way to improve their teams' global rankings.

"During this time when almost all Filipinos are going through some of the toughest times in their lives, sports, particularly basketball, provides a welcome respite from all the challenges. The NBA just finished its season and now the PBA is back. I am excited to see our Gilas Pilipinas back in action too and with the likes of Kouame on their way to being part of the squad, the future is looking bright for Philippine hoops," Angara said.