MANILA, Philippines – Defending MVP Ange Kouame continued to kick Ateneo despite not fully recovering from a knee injury.
Naturalized center back Gilas Pilipinas scored 17 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 saves as Ateneo clinched his second straight win in the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball tournament after beat National University, 77-60on Wednesday at the Philsports Arena.
Although he is yet to regain his top form following the partial ACL tear he suffered last June, Kouame won’t let it affect his eagerness to help the Blue Eagles. .
“I don’t think about it. I just got into the game, played the game the way I always played. If it hurts, it hurts, If it doesn’t, I can go. “I said.
“It feels great, I’m really happy that the team can work together. But (for me) there is still a lot of room for improvement, victories and especially defense. I think we’ll come back tomorrow to see what we should do for the next game. “
The 24-year-old big man, who is playing his final UAAP season, was instrumental in Ateneo’s first two wins, averaging 14.5 points, £13.0, 3.0 blocks and 2, 5 tectonics.
Blue Eagles coach Tab Baldwin remained patient about his 6-foot-10 center’s progress, praising Kouame for doing more than expected despite the injury.
“The knee is not a healthy knee. It is a fact of life. No one can exploit it, because he has only one device. All out. I think he still lacks his rhythm, his coordination,” Baldwin said. “You take a 7-foot, 23, 24-year-old player who has been playing the game for four, five years, and you leave him out for two months? God, he’s so hard. He is doing more than I expected at the moment.”
Baldwin hopes Kouame continues his recovery as the season-long continues.
“He makes mistakes, and some mistakes might not have happened if he had been active in the past four months. But he’s not, so that’s what we live with, and I like our team. I like him anchored in the middle. I just want my knees to hold up,” said the Kiwi-American coach.
Ateneo, which is looking to reclaim the title this season, claimed a third straight win over fierce rival, La Salle on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.