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Kouame rejoins the Gilas

Kouame rejoins Gilas

A Turkish Airlines flight from Manila via Istanbul brought Ange Kouame to Vilnius International Airport in Lithuania yesterday early morning to join Gilas in training for the upcoming FIBA World Cup. After graduating from the Ateneo last Friday, Kouame left for Lithuania the following day.

In addition to two friendlies in Estonia and two with the Ukrainian U20 squad last weekend, Gilas team manager Butch Antonio said at least two more tune-ups will take place. Chot Reyes has yet to confirm whether Kouame and Justin Brownlee will be paired together or alternately in future friendlies.

Clarkson is the third naturalized player in the pool, who is scheduled to join the camp late this month in order to complete his six-week commitment to Gilas, which includes 17 days at the World Cup. Gilas will travel to China on Aug. 2-6 to play a pocket tournament against Iran, Lebanon, and Senegal with Clarkson in harness.

Brownlee experienced a minor medical procedure in the US that required him to rest for one week before reporting to camp in Estonia. During the SEA Games in Cambodia last May, he helped the Philippines win gold in men’s basketball. He scored eight points and grabbed four rebounds in 19 minutes in his first game in Estonia a day after arriving before returning to the bench with cramps in the third quarter. He scored 11 points in his next friendly against Finland.

Ivory Coast-born Kouame, 25, moved to the Philippines in 2017. Ateneo won three UAAP titles under his leadership. FIBA’s exception clause may allow Kouame to qualify as a local despite being a naturalized citizen.

The future plans of Kouame beyond Gilas are not of concern at this point. As far as Gilas is concerned, I am focused. As long as Clarkson is unavailable and Brownlee is preparing for the PBA Commissioner’s Cup, it is possible that he could represent Gilas at the Asian Games.

He recalls playing against the Caribbean squad at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade in 2021, when the Gilas team lost 94-67 to the Dominican Republic. He said they were huge and athletic compared to us, who had small point guards.

As a team, we had a hard time spacing the floor. Basketball skills were more important than a system for them. We have to stand up for what we believe in when we face them at the World Cup. The match looks good to me.”

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