STEVE Akomo lauded the improvement of Ben Mbala as the two Cesafi rivals faced off for the first time in UAAP Season 80.
In 2012, Akomo was a highly touted reinforcement for the University of Visayas while a 17-year-old Mbala was beginning to turn heads for the Southwestern University Cobras.
The two would meet in an epic finals showdown where Mbala’s Cobras stormed back from being down 1-2 in the series and the Cameroonian scoring 18 points in the decider to ultimately win the crown in the Queen City of the South’s top collegiate league.
Five years later, the two met again - albeit in entirely different situations.
Mbala, now a UAAP MVP and champion, once again got the upper hand as La Salle dominated Akomo’s UST, 115-86, on Saturday.
The Archers big man also outplayed the Tigers import as Mbala had 29 points, nine boards and three blocks, compared to Akomo’s output of 15 markers and 13 boards.
Mbala’s improvement from a young freshman for the Yayoy Alcoseba-mentored squad to probably the most dominant foreign reinforcement the country has seen is something Akomo personally witnessed.
“We faced each other in the finals, the whole season and in the finals. He was a good a specimen, even in the UAAP, he’s something else. He’s very different from Cebu. I enjoyed the match-up,” said Akomo.
“The match-up was good. You know Ben Mbala, he’s improved a lot. He’s progressed a lot and it was a good match-up. I don’t have any regret for the game, I just have to work harder,” he added.
As La Salle bounced back from a surprising 98-87 defeat at the hands of UP to improve to 4-1 for the season, the struggles for Akomo’s Growling Tigers continued as they dropped to 0-6, the worst start for the proud university in the Final Four era.
Despite that, Akomo remains positive that their time will come and hopefully, he’ll be able to show that he’s also a solid reinforcement himself.
“That’s basketball. Everything happens we’re still being focused, we’re still preparing for the next game against UE. Next week, we need to have better preparation so hopefully we get our first win,” he said.