|"Pre, Filipino na si Ange!" Nikki Collantes (file photo)|
MANILA—"Pre, Filipino ako!"
With this simple tweet on Tuesday, Ange Kouame announced that his naturalization is now complete.
The 6-foot-11 Ateneo center is now a Filipino after he finished his naturalization process.
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Al Panlilio then confirmed that President Rodrigo Duterte has enacted the republic act that would formalize Kouame's new citizenship.
"The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas is elated to announce that Angelo Kouame's Filipino naturalization is now official. The SBP extends our appreciation to President Rodrigo Duterte for signing it into law and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Senator Bong Go for their assistance," Panlilio said.
He then thanked Senator Sonny Angara, who is also the SBP chairman, and Congressman Robbie Puno, also the SBP vice chairman, for authoring the legislative bills pushing for Kouame's naturalization.
Panlilio also thanked Senators Joel Villanueva and Dick Gordon for joining Angara in making the Senate bill possible.
"The SBP thanks all our allies in both houses whose support has been crucial in pushing this legislation to further strengthen our Gilas Pilipinas Men," Panlilio continued.
He then said that Kouame is now working on what is left to be done for FIBA to clear him for Gilas' upcoming tournaments.
"We are confident that he'll be able to play during our hosting of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers and the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Serbia," Panlilio further said.
The more important thing, however, according to Panlilio is to have Kouame on board for the 2023 FIBA World Cup, which the Philippine will co-host with Indonesia and Japan.
"Although Kouame's presence is crucial for these two tournaments, having him as an official member of the squad in the upcoming games is an early investment as we build towards the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup," Panlilio further said.
He then said that Kouame's naturalization is a highlight of "a great day for Philippine basketball."
"We're thankful for the full support of our basketball community," Panlilio further said.
Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno