Sports Sports Feature

Male Athlete of the Year: Ben Mbala earns spot among La Salle’s greatest athletes

Despite being limited to only a couple of years in the UAAP due to eligibility issues, Ben Mbala’s legacy will forever be cemented in the history of DLSU Basketball. His short-term stay with La Salle was packed with individual milestones and team achievements.

Backlashed for his race and hated by his opponents for his brute force inside the paint, the Cameroonian was recruited by the Green-and-White back in 2012 from Southwestern University in Cebu. The now two-time UAAP Most Valuable Player was already dominating the CESAFI (Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation, Inc.) even before he became a headline everytime he stepped on a court. The athletic big man attained stardom after bringing the title back to Taft back in Season 79.

This past year, the pressure was on his shoulders to defend the championship after the departure of Jeron Teng and other notable veterans. Although the Green Archers fell short in the Finals, Mbala displayed class, elegance, and determination in his final year for the Green-and-White

Unfitting end

La Salle ended the elimination rounds with a 12-2 win-loss slate featured by a second round sweep and only two losses in the first round from UP and ADMU. The Lasallians negated a step-ladder situation by spoiling Ateneo’s perfect season and in turn, earned a twice-to-beat advantage against AdU in the Final Four. After a win, they eventually forced a Finals rematch against their eternal rivals – the Blue Eagles.

The team from Katipunan dealt the first damage by securing the first game by a slim margin. However, La Salle answered back from a 21-point deficit in Game 2 and forced a deciding match. Mbala finished his final game donning the Green-and-White with heartbreak, losing in the deciding game, 88-86.

An illustrious UAAP Career

Without a doubt, Mbala is the one of the most dominant forces to ever grace the UAAP basketball court. After waiting all those long years due to residency, he proved to everyone that he was worth the wait for the DLSU faithful. Leading the charge for the Green Archers back in Season 79, he led the team to a near perfect run (16-1) before eventually bagging the title. This earned him the title of MVP and he was the first Lasallian player to win the award since Don Allado back in 1999.

Season 80 was a rollercoaster ride to say the least. Despite the fact that he only played eight games (excluding the postseason), he was able to match his 20.6 points & 16 rebounds average back in Season 79 by posting 24.9 points and 13.7 rebounds in Season 80. He ended the year by once again earning a spot in the Mythical Five team alongside co-star and former Green Archer Ricci Rivero and was once again league MVP. Although he and the Green Archers fell short of ending Season 80 with back-to-back championships against their rivals, his greatness as a player cannot be denied.

Life after the Green Archers

To the Green-and-White’s dismay, Mbala announced with a heavy heart that he will not be coming back for Season 81. To provide some closure for his fans, he stated, “I know my choice might come as a surprise to many and I have to admit the decision to leave was the toughest I have had to make after being with La Salle for so many years, but I feel that this decision is the best for the next stage in my career and development.” He was set to play for Fuerza Regia, a basketball club in the Mexican Liga Nacional de Baloncesto Profesional.  After a few months of playing in the Mexican league, he moved once again and played in France.

His departure led to a series of events that would eventually cause the Green Archers to enter a rebuilding phase. As the La Salle faithful are about to enter a new season, now would be a good time to reminisce on the impact that Mbala had in his time with DLSU.

What will we remember most about Big Ben? Will we remember him for his gravity defying dunks? His athletic and physical style of play? Watching him post monstrous numbers like it was just one of those nights? Or could it be his colorful personality that we have witnessed both on and off the court?

Really, all Lasallians will remember Mbala as a guy that gave his all for the school he represented and was proud to do it.

Gabriel Garcia

By Gabriel Garcia

Renzo Miguel Mercado

By Renzo Miguel Mercado

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