Now Sharpened By France, Ange Kouame Rejoins His Filipino Brothers For Jones Cup Campaign

Ange Kouame reflects on his rookie year in France, as well as his excitement to play with Strong Group for the Jones Cup. 

It was in October last year that Ange Kouame departed for France to join the UB Chartres Metropole. Initially signed in September, Ange first had to help Gilas Pilipinas, where he became a key cog in their gold medal run at the Hangzhou Asian Games. 

Fresh off the Asiad gold, Ange would play 22 regular season games with Chartres, averaging 10.2 points and 6.5 rebounds in 19.7 minutes per game. The Ivorian-Filipino had similar playoff numbers, with 11 points and 6.4 boards in five games played.

“It was pretty good. We had a good season. You know, at the end, playoff is a different mindset. We fell short in the semi-finals. And yeah,” Ange told The GAME in an exclusive interview. He’s currently in Manila as part of Strong Group’s Jones Cup buildup.

As a rookie, he added: “It was pretty good [rookie season]. I mean, I think I excelled in my expectations. I’m pretty happy about that.” 

Spending nine months in France, Ange also noted the “great fans” and “great atmosphere” toward local hoops, especially in the city of Marseille. Players meanwhile, are athletic, and “on average, [are] really tall,” according to the Blue Eagle legend.  

Like everyone else, Ange Kouame had a learning curve in France. While used to Filipino and Asian basketball, this was still the 26-year-old’s first exposure in Europe. 

“The Philippine league [UAAP] and the international league is way different than France. Especially there, the division system people are really proud of, [and] they know how to play the game,” Ange shared, referring to the French basketball system, where a promotion and relegation system is in place. 

But at the same time, he says: “It wasn’t that much of an adjustment. It was just me figuring out how am I going to be successful in this league.”

Off the court, it was a different story. While his Ivorian roots eliminated language barriers, Ange would struggle early into his transition in France. In his view, it was far off from the two countries he proudly calls home.

“It was tough at the beginning, because the French country is way different than the Filipino one, or neither the Ivorian one,” Ange recalls. “So at the beginning, it was tough for me to adjust, but since I found a friend, people to hang out [with]. The mindset changed immediately.” 

There was also the inevitable homesickness, as Ange Kouame spent nine straight months in France “without any breaks.” It’s understandable, given that he had been in the Philippines for eight years before moving 7,000 miles away from it.

“So trust me, there were moments where I really wanted to go home, but it is what it is. It’s been part of being pro also.”

Now that it’s all said and done, here’s Ange’s biggest learning: “To take care of myself, especially for a long season. How to be prepared every single time, and be professional.” 

‘These are my family’

Ange finally returned to the Philippines after nine months, as part of Strong Group’s Jones Cup crew. While in France, the big man was recruited by head coach Charles Tiu, and Strong Group official Jacob Lao.

“They really want me to join Strong Group. These are my family, so I decided to join the others,” Ange said. 

More than that, Ange gets to represent the Philippines again. “It’s something that I was expecting for long, and it’s the opportunity right here.” 

There’s also the happiness of being home and seeing some similar faces after being away for nine months according to Ange. He also likes this team a lot, citing their shared mindset, as well as everyone’s professionalism that adds to his excitement to play with them.

Even sweeter, Ange will now be reunited with Dave Ildefonso and Geo Chiu, two of his longtime brothers from Ateneo with whom he won UAAP championships.  

“It’s the same vibe. Always the same energy. I’m always happy to see them around and share memories together,” he says of the pair. 

Ahead of the Jones Cup, Ange is already building on his rookie year learnings. After one season in France, the big man recognizes his need to be a “complete” player, as well as having to improve his post up game. 

Fortunately, Ange already has some help in the post. “I keep evolving, that’s the meaning of the game. I’m still a student of the game. I like the process.” 

Now the question is, how will one Ange Kouame perform once Strong Group opens their Jones Cup campaign on July 13?

Banner Image from UAAP Season 84 Media Team.

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