STRONG Group will face a daunting task without anchor Ange Kouame following his sickness ahead of the team’s campaign in the Dubai International Basketball Tournament.
The Philippine contingent said that Mr. Kouame is nursing dengue and has been confined since last week, dealing a huge blow on the squad’s roster.
Mr. Kouame, at 6-foot-10, was anticipated to be Strong Group’s starting center for the Dubai tilt starting on Friday until Feb. 5.
The Ateneo stalwart is also part of the 24-man Gilas Pilipinas pool for Window 6 of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers next month as one of its naturalized players.
Sans Mr. Kouame, Strong Group is banking on imports Renaldo Balkman and Shabazz Muhammad as well as Justine Baltazar and NCAA MVP Will Gozum to man the frontcourt when they slug it out against the best clubs in the Middle East.
Another reinforcement in Nick Young banners the backcourt rotation with Jerom Lastimosa and JD Cagulangan with Francis Lopez and Fil-Am prospect Sedrick Barefield at wings.
BJ Andrade, Migs Oczon and Inand Fornillos are also expected to step up for the squad owned by Jacob Lao, the ex-Ateneo guard and newly-minted assistant manager of Converge in the PBA.
Strong Group, under the watch of Charles Tiu, is out to duplicate the feat of the Mighty Philippines team — also under his helm — after sweeping the 2020 Dubai tilt as its first non-Middle Eastern champion team. — John Bryan Ulanday