With the third window of the FIBA qualifiers closing in, Angelo Kouame may not make his national team debut at home as his naturalization process could last beyond February.

/ 25 December 2020

Gilas Pilipinas did not field a naturalized player on the first two windows of the FIBA qualifiers and the same case may happen once the February window rolls on.

“That wasn’t a likely possibility in the first place,” Rep. Robbie Puno, the author of House Bill no. 5951, told Inquirer.

“Those who had earlier said that he could be available for the February window were merely expressing a hope that the process would be done by then.”

According to a source monitoring the situation, Kouame’s naturalization had hit a delay in its second reading and was not successful in gaining the nod of the House of Representatives before it went to its break.

However, the delays caused by Covid-19 were the biggest setback to the process, says Puno.

“We filed the bill in January and by February, we were asked 21 documentary requirements to complete,” Puno said. 

“We only completed those requirements last October because a lot of these documents required personal appearances, which were difficult because of the [COVID-19 lockdowns].”

The earliest possible time for the Ateneo’s Ivorian center’s naturalization to make his Gilas debut will be in August next year.

Without a naturalized player, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) will be fielding a pure local lineup consisting of mixed players from the PBA and cadets. 

The Philippines will be up against South Korea on February 18 and 22, and Indonesia on the 20 on the last window of the qualifiers at Clark, Pampanga.

Gilas, 3-0, will need to collect one more win to qualify for the FIBA Asia Cup 2021.