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In Your Face!

In, Out, Drum Roll Please (Part 1)

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In the UAAP it sometimes comes down to whatever the powers-that-be say when it comes to who gets to play and who does not.

With Season 81 set to open this weekend, quite a few players have been talked about, as to whether or not they will play and how those scenarios all work out.

Most of the players being discussed in various online discussion boards and social media seem to be the big men.

Let us start with the biggest one, Ateneo's newly minted superstar center, 6-11 Angelo Kouame.

Kouame is from the Ivory Coast, and came to the Ateneo about a year and a half ago, first just hanging around behind the Ateneo bench during UAAP games, and later on becoming part of their Fr Martin Cup team.

In the Fr Martin, Kouame was a huge presence inside, collaring rebounds and blocking shots and also getting the odd put-back. No one really knew he would become as good as he has become now.

The question with him is whether or not he has actually met the local residency requirement for UAAP foreign athletes.

This is important because Kouame has not yet enrolled in the Ateneo, having finished high school in some small boutique school. Let us be clear that this is not about whether or not Kouame is a legitimate student, or whether or not he finished high school in a legitimate institution. The question is simply whether or not, having spent only one full academic year at said boutique school, Kouame has already fulfilled the residency requirement of the UAAP and thus allowing him to play already in Season 81.

There are two schools of thought here:

1) Kouame is not yet eligible because the student must serve his residency in the school for which he will see varsity action in the UAAP. That is after all the whole point of residency, i.e. you reside with the school. Remember, although Kouame was lined up by the Ateneo on its Fr Martin team, he was not yet enrolled in the school at the time. Fr Martin Cup organizers may or may not have been aware of this, and even if they were, the Fr Martin isn't really as strict as the UAAP when it comes to eligibility. If this holds, then Kouame must sit out one year now that he is enrolled in the Ateneo, making him eligible to play only come Season 82.

2) Kouame is eligible because residency means only actually being in the country. Kouame has been in the country for at least a year and a half. Heck he even finished high school here. If this holds then he can play right away and we will see more of him throughout Season 81.

For the reigning champion Blue Eagles, this is a very important issue that must be decided quickly. In all honesty, their prospects of a successful title defense depend about 90% on Kouame being able to play.

Next up is Taane Samuel, the 6-8 Filipino-New Zealander with Lasalle.

Samuel's case is a little trickier, legally speaking.

He was apparently born and raised in New Zealand but his mother is a full-blooded Filipina who migrated there, making her a natural born Filipino citizen, at least when she was born.

Lasalle would love to have him play as a local, thereby allowing the Green Archers to line up an import, perhaps that Socka fellow who saw action in a few off-season tournaments.

If Samuel were applying to play as a Filipino-foreigner in the PBA, all he would have to do is present documentation that his mother is a natural-born Filipina who migrated to New Zealand and that would be the end of it.

Things are not quite that simple in the UAAP, and not always because of what the UAAP rules say or do not say. A lot of times, all it takes is one member-school's representative to raise a shitstorm over a player and suddenly things get messy.

Samuel also apparently played on one of the FIBA Youth Teams of New Zealand, which was another thing counted against him. How indeed could a Filipino possibly play for another country's national youth team?

Samuel however can play right away, as an import or as a local, since he has completed the residency requirements of the UAAP, being enrolled in Lasalle the last couple of academic years.

Samuel will add a lot of quality size and skill to an already imposing Lasalle frontline no matter how he is considered.

(To be continued)
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