Mbala's decision is final and is taking his talents to Mexico
Ever since coming into the UAAP last season, Ben Mbala has become a force to be reckoned with. Literally and figuratively, he's a beast on the court and has become the main defensive anchor of the De La Salle Green Archers for the last two seasons. He won the MVP twice and is a member of the Mythical Team for two seasons. He helped La Salle win the first 13 games of the UAAP back in Season 79 before winning the championship against the Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles.
Heading into Season 80, La Salle was tagged as favorites to repeat as champions despite losing Jeron Teng to graduation. And despite missing Ben Mbala for the first two games of the season due to Mbala's commitment to his country's national team, the Green Archers went on to return the favor to the Blue Eagles by ending the latter's 13-game winning streak. Both teams went to the Finals again where Ateneo finally won the championship after winning the series, 2-1.
Coach Aldin Ayo has indicated right after the Finals that Ben Mbala will return for Season 81.
That was a few weeks ago.
Unfortunately for Aldin Ayo and company, they will have to figure things out on their own come next season because Ben Mbala has made the hardest and most heart-breaking decision not to return to the Green Archers. According to the reigning two-time MVP, his decision to leave La Salle was motivated by the questions surrounding his eligibility to play next season. This was due to the reports that the "Seven Year out of High School" rule has already lapsed. This rule was imposed by the UAAP to ease the lack of recruitment that was brought about by the implementation of the K-12 curriculum. Additionally, Ben Mbala has said that he felt it was already high time for him take his talents elsewhere instead of staying in Manila, doing nothing. He is now set to play in Mexico.
What Mbala's departure means for La Salle and for the UAAP in general?
There's no denying the fact that Ben Mbala is one of the best foreign players to play in the UAAP and La Salle will sorely miss him due to his competitiveness and the fact that he is almost impossible to guard. Replacing Mbala's numbers would be a big headache for La Salle because it's not every day that you see a kind of player who can score as if he's LeBron James.
While La Salle will have headaches due to Mbala's decision not to return, this could also mean less headache for the rest of the league. They won't have to defend someone who is virtually unguardable. Also, Mbala's decision has already made Ateneo's road to repeating as champions, less complicated.
Who will lead La Salle come next season and beyond? Like it or not, La Salle still has many players who can take over the leadership role and one of those guys is Ricci Rivero who played tremendously great this season. While losing Ben Mbala will be a big blow for La Salle, this will also allow other players to blossom.