Mbala stands out among DLSUís league-best rookie class

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Aug 29, 2016 01:27 PM
Mbala stands out among DLSUís league-best rookie class
EMBARRASSMENT OF RICHES. Hulking Cameroonian Ben Mbala together with most of the top recruits from high school are all Green Archers.

Is De La Salle University’s rookie class of 2016 the best the UAAP has ever seen?

There’s hulking Cameroonian Ben Mbala who had his way against anybody in the 2016 Filoil Flying V Preseason Tournament. There’s Justine Baltazar, UAAP Juniors champion and Finals MVP. There’s Aljun Melecio, UAAP Juniors Season MVP and twice 40-point scorer. There’s Ricci Rivero, should-have-been NCAA Juniors MVP and hyper athlete..

That’s not even counting new head coach Aldin Ayo who is coming off an NCAA championship with Colegio de San Juan de Letran.

Still, in terms of history, archrival Ateneo de Manila University’s 2008 class of Ryan Buenafe, Justing Chua, Niko Salva, and Clark Bautista (EDITOR’S NOTE: Bautista wound up playing for University of Sto. Tomas instead) has something to say about being the best-ever.

But this is for sure, in Season 79, the Green Archers take the cake of having the best collection of first-year players in the league.

Much of that has to do with Mbala who enters the UAAP with an instant claim of being the best foreign student-athlete. And he’s only looking forward to proving himself in saying, “I can’t wait to see what’s out there during the games. I’ve been on the sidelines, sitting down, but being on the court is different.”

A big part of the Cameroonian’s personal excitement as well as basketball fans’ anticipation for his debut stems from the fact that it was three years in the making. “I’m not gonna lie to you. I made one mistake that made me sit out three years and it wasn’t easy,” he expressed.

Mbala served two years of residency before being forced to the sidelines for violating a league rule regarding playing in commercial leagues. Now that he’s eligible, however, he won’t be wasting any more time and said, “I will do whatever the team needs from me.”

He won't be alone in being excited to finally suit up for DLSU and in having something to prove. As Rivero, former College of St. Benilde-La Salle Greenhills standout, said, “Privilege sa amin na yung mga star nung Juniors, nagsama-sama sa isang college.”

He then continued, “Lalong pang excited na maging part ng talagang inaabangan na batch dahil kay Ben.”

However, the Archer rookies were quick to clarify that they still knew their place in the league. “Siguro nga (nandito lahat ng malalakas nung Juniors), pero hindi naman namin iniisip na malakas na kami agad sa Seniors,” prized prospect out of De La Salle Zobel Melecio said.

Nobody should make the mistake of thinking they wouldn’t go out to make immediate impact, however. As Baltazar, tower of power from Nazareth School of National University put it, “Rookie kami, pero pag naglaro, parang beterano.”

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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