ANTIPOLO — Now it can be told.
Former La Salle star Ben Mbala was considered by Magnolia as a replacement import had the Hotshots' PBA Governors’ Cup semifinal series against Barangay Ginebra reached a deciding Game Five.
Magnolia coach Chito Victolero admitted Romeo Travis suffered a Grade 2 hamstring injury prior to Game Four, the injury so serious that the Hotshots considered tapping a replacement.
The replacement import was supposed to be Mbala, who was available to play for the Hotshots had the series reached Game Five on Sunday. That was if Travis was unfit to play for Magnolia for that rubber match.
Victolero said the former UAAP MVP is currently in the country and was contacted by the team through former La Salle coach Juno Sauler, who is part of the Hotshots' coaching staff.
As it turned out, there was no need for any replacement as Travis came away with 50 points and 13 rebounds as the Hotshots closed out Ginebra with a gritty 112-108 victory in Game Four on Friday night.
Victolero bared Travis was only cleared to play on Friday morning.
“It’s a Grade 2 hamstring injury. Since yesterday, hirap siya. But tinignan siya ni Dr. [George] Canlas and then we had a clearance this morning,” said Victolero.
Victolero said Mbala, who previously played as an import in Korea, became an option as Magnolia had no more time to find an import from the US.
“Nandito si Ben. Galing sa Korea. Wala kaming choice. Ang choice lang namin is an import in East Asia. Kasi if we get an import from the US, hindi aabot, from the papers, everything. We tried to get an import na malapit na sa Asia. Emergency lang naman,” said Victolero.
There may be no need for Mbala now.
Travis will get the time he needs to recover from the hamstring injury as the league is set to take a break before the finals to give way to Team Pilipinas' campaign in the fifth window of the Fiba World Cup qualifiers.
The other semifinal series between Meralco and Alaska has yet to be decided. The Aces lead, 2-1.