Not many Lasallians know him yet, but it’s really hard not to notice him when he walks around campus, especially with his 6’7 frame. Ben Mbala, currently a member of the DLSU Green Archers’ Team B, is a transfer student from Southwestern University (SWU) in Cebu. He made the move to DLSU two years ago and the Cameroonian big man is currently undergoing residency with hopes of playing in the UAAP next year.
He came to the Philippines as a 16-year-old after winning the Most Valuable Player plum at the Basketball Without Borders Camp in Africa. When Moustapha Arafat, his friend from the camp, asked him to come over to the Philippines, he went to Cebu to play for the SWU Cobras where he wowed scouts with his combination of size, skill, and athleticism.
Mbala was eventually given the chance to show his craft in front of Manila-based schools when he led his team to the Final Four of the Philippine Collegiate Champions League (PCCL) in 2012. With his impressive skills on the court and numbers to back it up on the stat sheet, Mbala caught the eyes of La Salle’s coaches and was he offered a spot on their basketball team. However, the former SWU Cobra had to comply first with the residency rule of the UAAP which requires all foreign players to serve a two-year residency in the school that they wish to suit up for before being eligible to play in the league.
“Basically, I’m just studying all the time. [I’m] going to the gym every day and working on my game to be ready for the time I can play,” says Mbala when asked how he spends his time these days. Mbala also shared that he saw a big difference in the level of basketball between his former school and La Salle. “I can really see that the level is higher than in Cebu, but I’m enjoying it,” Mbala adds.
Despite his achievements abroad and recognitions while still in Cebu, Mbala is grateful to be with the Green Archers and to coach Juno Sauler whom he looks up to as a very professional mentor. Mbala comments, “Coach Juno is very professional. He’s assigning every player a specific task and you have to be able to do it during the game to be able to win.”
Now on his final year of residency, the talented Cameroonian can’t wait to play with the Green Archers in the UAAP. “Practicing every day with the Team A guys is really making me feel excited. It’s hard for me a bit because waiting all the time is not easy,” shares Mbala. However, his excitement to play with the current league champions is not just because of the action that the UAAP offers, but it is also because of the warm welcome that the Lasallian community has given to him. “The Lasallian family is really open. They [are] treating me well and that’s enough for me,” he says. Mbala also counts that learning the Lasallian values is one of the better experiences that he has had in La Salle so far.
Opportunity to share
As an import, Mbala shoulders heavy responsibilities as he is expected to be a game changer for the team and a constant contributor during games. Import players like him have affected the local game so much that schools tapping them as reinforcements in the collegiate league have alarmed UAAP officials. Recently, the UAAP has been mulling to ban imports from the league by Season 78 with the reason that they are taking away the opportunity of Filipino athletes to showcase and further nurture their talents through collegiate sports.
As one of the players being pointed out in the said matter, Mbala expressed that the proposed rule seemed like an act of discrimination to import players like him. “They’re seeing us not as players and students, but like we’re just getting the spots of the Filipinos,” Mbala explains. Due to the negative criticism that the proposed rule received, adjustments were gradually made and they have decided to allow one import player per team. “I think it’s a plus for Filipino leagues to have imports because they [the local players] will have to improve and increase their level of game. They cannot just keep playing the same thing every day. They have to create something new and if possible, give it their best,” he adds.
Despite being side tracked by the said issue on imports, Mbala did not completely lose his focus. He still feels the same level of excitement and wishes that he and the other import players from other teams may be given the chance to show their talents on the hard court of the UAAP. “I want the excitement of playing, but that time will come. I’ll just have to wait and everything will be alright,” Mbala ends.