By Jean Malanum

MANILA – Strong Group-Philippines has signed up Angelo Kouame and RJ Abarrientos to boost its lineup for the 43rd William Jones Cup set July 13 to 21 in Taipei, Taiwan.

The 6-foot-11 Kouame, a naturalized Filipino, will be making his third appearance in the Jones Cup. He played for Ateneo-Pilipinas in 2018 and Rain or Shine in 2023.

“I’m really, really happy to represent the country again. It’s another opportunity for me to win this competition,” said Kouame, who is playing for French squad Nationale Masculine 1 club UB Chartres Métropole where he averaged 10.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks in 22 games.

Strong Group coach Charles Tiu said Kouame is always willing to suit up for the Philippines.

“Finally, I will get the chance to coach him, especially after our Dubai stint where he got sick and had to miss the tournament completely,” Tiu said in a press statement on Sunday. “I know he’s improved a lot and has been healthy, so that’s a good sign.”

Tiu was referring to the 33rd Dubai International Basketball Championship in January, where Strong Group lost to Al Riyadi of Lebanon in the finals, 77-74.
Abarrientos, meanwhile, is entering his second year with Japanese B.League team Shinshu Brave Warriors. He averaged 7.8 points and 2.4 assists per game in his debut season.

“Of course, I’m very excited because it’s my first time on the team, and I’m eager to play with my kuyas (older brothers) and to represent our country again,” the 5-foot-11 guard said.

He was named Rookie of the Year while playing for the Ulsan Hyundai Mobis team in the 2022-23 season of the Korean Basketball League before moving to the Japanese league.

“I’m also thankful for the opportunity given to me by SGA (Strong Group Athletics). I can’t wait to join them and compete on the big stage,” Abarrientos added.

Kouame and Abarrientos will join, among others, Kiefer Ravena, Jordan Heading, Caelan Tiongson and Chris McCullough.

“RJ was one of our first options for the point guard spot, but we had to wait until he got clearance from Japan and his agent to play,” Tiu said.

“I always like guards who can score, so we are excited to have him on the team. When the opportunity to play for the country arose, he immediately said yes!” (PNA)