THERE’S no question for Seoul Samsung Thunders coach Lee Sang Min that sooner or later, Ben Mbala will be finding his way back to the Philippines.
After all, with the skillset that the two-time UAAP Most Valuable Player has, it’s going to be more of a surprise if no team makes a run for him.
Mbala, the 23-year-old center who made a name for himself with La Salle and Southwestern University, is set to take his act to the Korean Basketball League (KBL) as an import this season.
And this early, a lot of fans are excited on what the Yaounde, Cameroon-born slotman can bring to the table after his stops in Mexico with Fuerza Regia de Monterrey and in France with Chorale Roanne Basket.
Include Lee to that list.
“Mbala played in the Philippines and he knows a different style of Asian basketball. That’s why we picked him to play for us, especially his ability to adapt to the Asian basketball style. And I think he’ll do well in KBL too,” he said through a translator.
The bar is set for Mbala as he makes his KBL debut on October, taking over the spot left by former Star Hotshots reinforcement and Korean naturalized player Ricardo Ratliffe.
Lee remains confident, though, noting that if Mbala reaches the heights Ratliffe achieved with Seoul Samsung, “it will be helpful for the team as well.”
It wouldn’t take long, too, if a PBA team tries to get his services, with Lee a witness on how standout imports have traversed Korea and Philippines to and fro.
“A lot of imports have played in Korea to the Philippines and back again. If Mbala plays well with us, of course he’ll have a great opportunity to be one of those who did that in the two countries in the KBL and the PBA,” he said.
Aside from Ratliffe, one of Lee’s examples is Murphy Holloway, the former GlobalPort import who saw action in the 2017 Governors’ Cup, who will join Mbala to bolster the Thunders this year.
The question now is will Lee, who is still remembered in the country as the one who drained the dagger triple that lifted Korea past the Philippines in the semifinals of the 2002 Busan Asian Games, impart his knowledge from beyond the arc to Mbala?
“I don’t coach the big men to shoot threes. I prefer the in-and-out play,” he said in the negative.
“But if he gets a lot of chances from the outside and he’ll get better, then that will be helpful for our team as well.”