CEBU CITY - Former Southwestern University King Cobra Ben Mbala is thrilled to be back to the place he once called home and play against a team he once called family.
So much so that he is actually losing sleep over it.
This the 6-foot-7 Cameroonian admitted to Spin.ph shortly after the defending champions La Salle Green Archers booked their place in the Philippine Collegiate Champions League (PCCL) Elite Eight with a 79-56 victory over Centro Escolar University in the Metro Manila-Luzon qualifiers on Monday.
The win meant Mbala will get to come back to Cebu and play against the very same school that gave him his break – the reigning Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. (Cesafi) champion SWU.
The Archers and the Cobras are squaring off in the opener of the Elite Eight on Thursday at 5 p.m. at the Cebu Coliseum.
“I feel excited about it and hopefully it shows. I haven’t been sleeping much in anticipation of this game,” Mbala said.
The 20-year old added that emotions will play a part in his return to the Queen City of the South, more so because he is going up against a squad that he has had very fond memories of.
After all, Mbala led the Cobras to their first title in the Cesafi with a thrilling five-game win over the University of the Visayas Green Lancers back in the 2012 finals series.
“It will definitely be a game with plenty of emotions but I will just try to enjoy the game,” said Mbala.
However, SWU head coach Raul 'Yayoy' Alcoseba was quick to temper the hype, saying their match against Archers will be just another game that they have to compete in.
“It’s just another game. It won’t be (Ben) Mbala versus the Cobras or Mbala versus (Landry) Sanjo. It will be Southwestern University versus La Salle. We’ve played them several times already but we’ve only won once so obviously, we haven’t done particularly well against them so we have to be better,” said Alcoseba.
Alcoseba though, heaped praises on his former ward but said that playing with the varsity is an entirely different animal.
“He is definitely better now. He is more polished. He has more moves now and stronger, too. But let me tell you this: he has been playing with Team B for two years now and now that he is playing with Team A, he will have to adapt and learn since it’s an entirely different team and system,” said the Cebu provincial board member.
One SWU official who is excited to see their prodigal son is the school’s chairperson of the board of directors, Maris Johanna Holopainen.
“Ben Mbala will always be considered part of the Cobras family. In fact, we refer to him as our Green Cobra. He greatly contributed to our first Cesafi title and SWU's first foray back into the national spotlight after a long absence. As such, he has been part of the reason for the renewed commitment by SWU to its basketball program,” she said.