He may be listed last among the country’s naturalized personalities, but that gives Ange Kouame no reason to be indifferent to the national basketball program.
Instead, the Ivory Coast native has always made himself available for the national team and the 6-foot-10 big man is doing so again for the team that will compete in the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, England. China, this weekend.
“I’m really excited to be a part of the program again, I’m also excited when I got the call from coach (Tim Cone) himself,” he told the Inquirer during one of the training sessions at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig City.
“I’m really happy to be able to represent this country, play and have fun with the guys,” added the Ateneo ace.
Even with a European club looking to secure his services, Kouame has long carried himself like a professional, training with Gilas in the Baltic States in preparation for the World Cup and then always showing up for training in preparation for the continental showcase.
The 25-year-old center is currently working hard throughout the camp at the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna, where the national team trains.
Technically the only amateur in a team full of pros, Kouame is also eager to prove he can hold his own among a field of battle-hardened veterans when the Philippines’ campaign opens against Bahrain on September 26.
“I think I’m ready,” he said of facing experienced pros, bigger opponents and other naturalized players in the regional competition.
“It won’t be the first time. But I think I’ll be prepared to be in that situation as well, especially as the muscle of this team. Basketball is a very competitive sport, so we will compete against each other,” he added.
Kouame’s presence keeps the country’s front line relatively high, even after AJ Edu and Kai Sotto both decided to focus on their professional careers in Japan.
Alongside June Mar Fajardo, Japeth Aguilar and even Mo Tautuaa, the former UAAP Most Valuable Player should be a key asset on both ends of the court.
And Cone believes that’s exactly what the national team needs to try to win the gold medal.
“We have Mo, Japeth Ange, then June Mar. We have good size,” he said. “We’re not going to be out of proportion there (at the Asian Games). We will have an opportunity with the Middle East and China teams given our size. INQ
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