Almost a year has passed since Ben Mbala’s last Green Journal and from when La Salle clinched the UAAP Men’s Basketball Championship. Now, the Cameroonian and the rest of the DLSU Green Archers find themselves squaring off against the ADMU Blue Eagles in the finals for the second consecutive year. In his ninth journal, Mbala talks about his favorite dunk of the season so far, winning the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award anew along with keys to beating ADMU. Last but not the least, he sheds light on whether he will be able to suit up for the Green-and-White next season.
My favorite dunk of the season so far
Actually, it’s gonna be that putback with the left hand against Ateneo [in the first round at the Mall of Asia Arena]. It wasn’t that easy. I just went for the tip-in and then I found myself a little higher than the ring so I just decided to throw it in since no one boxed me out. I didn’t expect that myself!
On retaining the MVP award and dealing with criticism
There’s something I’ve learned in life. Not everyone will be on your side. Some others will hate you or won’t like the good things happening to you. You cannot do anything about it, it’s just part of life. Just live with it and not let anything affect you.
And on the other end you have to say, looking at the league, I’ve seen guys like Kiefer Ravena or Bobby Ray Parks Jr. play and then get the back-to-back MVPs despite having “imports” in the league. Like they call us, imports, I’d say foreign students. But at the end of the day, they [Ravena and Parks] were better than them [all the other players in the league]. I don’t know why there’s a big issue about me getting it. I’m fine with whatever they think, I can’t make them change their mind. I’m just gonna keep doing my thing and not let it affect me.
Comparing last season’s team with our current roster
We lost a couple of key players, veterans, Jeron Teng, Jason Perkins, Thomas Torres, and Julian Sargent. First of all, we know Ateneo will come back wanting revenge, of course. We beat them last year but we’re still the same team, the Mayhem team. We’re not gonna just back down because they have a 13-1 record. If you look at their [second Final Four] game with FEU, they almost lost. They’re very beatable and people have been able to see their mistakes and weaknesses and we’re gonna go into the [coming] games with the same mindset. We’re gonna go there and play hard and give them our all, all we’ve got.
On what to work on after having close wins over the ADMU Blue Eagles and AdU Soaring Falcons
In our [recent] games [against them] we saw that we always start slow, it’s been our problem against those two teams and we cannot start that way. We need to be more aggressive and find a way not to trail the entire game. Trailing is harder than being on top. We definitely have to start stronger.
Key players to shutdown versus ADMU
I say [we have to stop] the shooters Anton Asistio and Matt Nieto, the point guard. We shouldn’t give them outside shooting. Like you’ve noticed their first [Final Four] game against FEU, without making those threes they easily lost the game. Their game is based on that. I won’t say Chibueze Ikeh or Isaac Go are like really a legit force in the paint. They now shoot threes too, so most of the time they’re outside on the perimeter shooting threes or running pick and rolls. If we shut down their outside shooting, then I feel that we will be alright.
On playing in the UAAP next season
First of all, I’m not the one who’s supposed to decide about that [eligibility next year]. According to the rules, I’m supposed to be done this year. Maybe if you’ve noticed, every time they put something in effect in the UAAP, it changes, like I was supposed to sit out one year, they made me sit out two, then made it three.
You know I feel like I’ve gotten used to the UAAP trying to mess with me. I just put it in my mind that this is my last year just for me not to have expectations. But if ever I have one more year then let’s see. At this point, I don’t wanna think about the future. My main objective is just the finals. I’ll see and focus on that and after, we’ll talk about it.
My message to the Lasallian community and the fans
It’s pretty unbelievable. Looking at all the supporters being there despite the fact that you’ve been having a couple of hard games. You see a lot of them supporting us and always having our back. It makes us feel good about ourselves and always makes us wanna improve our game and push ourselves harder and harder every day.
We’re ready [for the finals]. We’ve been preparing for it and we already know it’s not gonna be easy. It’s [the title] not gonna be served to us on a plate. We have to go get it so that’s what all the guys have been doing in practice, giving their everything and playing hard because we have to be ready.
I wanna invite you all to come watch the game and support us because we really need the support. We’ve been playing so well and have gotten so far thanks to your support. I invite them to come and support us as we will be defending our crown.