AS UP’s Carl Tamayo begged off due to injury, Ateneo’s Ange Kouame and La Salle’s Kevin Quiambao have committed their services as UAAP representatives for Gilas Pilipinas in the fifth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers this week.
The UAAP in the middle of its Season 85 second round is taking a two-week pause until Nov. 16 to give way for Gilas’ campaign, making collegiate standouts like Mr. Kouame and Mr. Quiambao available for national tour of duty.
And though there will be no rest for the weary players following another chapter of Ateneo-La Salle rivalry just over the weekend, they can’t wait to join the Gilas camp in its final preparations before departing to the Middle East on Monday.
Gilas, which has Messrs. Tamayo, Quiambao and reigning UAAP MVP Kouame in its 20-man training pool, goes on road games against Saudi Arabia and Jordan on Nov. 10-13.
One of the reasons that excite the two big men is the opportunity to play with their “kuyas” from the PBA, who will comprise the national team core along with the overseas stalwarts from Japan B. League.
“If I’m part of the (final) lineup, I’m happy to join. At the end of the day, it’s something I love to do, playing basketball. If they call me, I will represent the country for sure,” said the 6-foot-11 Mr. Kouame, who is poised to be the team’s naturalized player anew.
“I’m really excited (to play with PBA cagers), especially during practice lately. I was able to learn much from them too. It keeps me going because I’m trying to be like them, a professional one day,” he added, pointing to veteran Japeth Aguilar as his mentor.
This will be the return of Mr. Kouame, who last played in the February window in the Gilas pool following a meniscal sprain and partial ACL tear that sidelined him for the SEA Games, Asia Cup and fourth window of the qualifiers.
The same goes for Mr. Quiambao, who played in the third window and the Asia Cup. — John Bryan Ulanday