Kouame, Abarrientos, set to reinforce Strong Group for 2024 Jones Cup

Kouame (L) and Abarrientos are the newest members of Strong Group (FIBA via onesports.ph)

By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña

Help is on the way for the Philippines-based sports organization Strong Group for their upcoming campaign in the 43rd William Jones Cup basketball tournament.

After securing the commitment of former Gilas Pilipinas men’s national basketball team members Kiefer Ravena and Jordan Heading several weeks ago, Strong Group will receive two additional superstars as RJ Abarrientos and Ange Kouame are reportedly joining the squad that will fly to Taipei, Taiwan, from July 13 to July 21, 2024.

Also former members of Gilas Pilipinas, the two young collegiate stars paved their own international hoops path after playing overseas after the FIBA tournaments.

Kouame, a key piece to Ateneo de Manila University’s dynasty in the UAAP, headed to France where he played for the Nationale Masculine 1 club UB Chartres Metropole.

The young center immediately had an impact in his first year in France and averaged 10.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per contest.

Now that Kouame is available for the month of July, the Strong Group management quickly pulled the trigger in tapping him and will surely be a key addition to the soon-to-be-completed lineup.

Aside from Kouame, Abarrientos, the former floor general of the Gilas team that was mentored by head coach Tab Baldwin, is coming home to the Philippines and boost Strong Group.

Abarrientos is still playing as an Asian import quota player in the Japan B. League with the Shinsu Brave Warriors.

Before flying to Japan, Abarrientos became a pioneer batch of Filipino imports in the Korean Basketball League together with SJ Belangel and Rhenz Abando.

Abarrientos capped off his first season in Korea with the Rookie of the Year award after showing off his high-level offensive skills on the international scene.

In Japan, his numbers dipped but is still an efficient guard for Shinsu, averaging 7.8 points and 2.4 assists per contest.

“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. 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!” said Strong Group head coach Charles Tiu.

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