After two seasons in the UAAP, Ben Mbala formally announced his decision to depart DLSU and the Green Archers through a post on Twitter earlier today. The two-time MVP left a mark on the team as he led La Salle to two consecutive finals appearances and a championship in Season 79. As for his next step, Mbala will play professionally in Mexico for Fuerza Regia, as the team’s import.
While there was a slim chance of him being eligible to play next season, complications with the rules of the UAAP put his future with La Salle in doubt and out of his hands. To be exact, the rule, which is set to be once again in place next season, states that players who are seven years out of high school are no longer eligible to play in the UAAP. Since Mbala’s records show that he graduated high school in Cameroon at 16, he was ruled ineligible for Season 81, pending an appeal.
His departure from the team marks the end of a tumultuous UAAP journey for the big man. After transferring from Southwestern University in 2013, it took Mbala three years before officially being a part of the Green Archers, due to a myriad of different residency rules. Also, Mbala became a polarizing figure that sparked debate as to whether imports deserved to win individual awards or were right for the UAAP in the first place.
Nevertheless, the Cameroonian let his game do the talking as he showcased dominance that was never before seen in the UAAP.
In his debut season in 2016, Mbala posted norms of 20.6 points, 16 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per game to lead DLSU to its first championship since 2012. He and Finals MVP Jeron Teng guided La Salle to a finals sweep over the ADMU Blue Eagles.
In Season 80, Mbala once again won the league’s MVP award, averaging 26.0 points, 16.0 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game. Mbala won the award even after missing La Salle’s first two games due to a stint with the Cameroonian national team at the 2017 AfroBasket.
Though he was able to bring the Green Archers back to the finals, he and the team eventually succumbed to Ateneo in a memorable three-game series.
While his stint was not as long as he and other members of the Lasallian community would have wanted, Mbala will be remembered by all as one of the most genuine and best players to ever don the Green-and-White.
New Zealand native Taane Samuel has been tapped to replace him in Season 81.