ARNOLD Van Opstal is back with La Salle after missing several practice sessions, and athletic director said his decision to stay for one more year with the Green Archers had nothing to do with Ben Mbala's eligibility woes for Season 78 of the UAAP.
The 23-year-old Van Opstal was expected to turn pro with Cameroonian Mbala set to take over the spot as main slotman for the Green Archers until his eligibility was put into question after he saw action in another league in General Santos City.
La Salle athletic director Nongnong Calanog, however, said Van Opstal's turnaround was a personal decision and not an offshoot of the Mbala situation.
“’Yung decision ni Arnold is independent of that,” said Calanog, referring to Mbala’s case. “As far as we are concerned, he decided to play his last year of eligibility and that’s it.
“It’s a personal decision regardless of whether Ben will play or not,” he added.
Mbala's case is expected to be tackled by the UAAP eligibility committee a month before Season 78 begins on September 5.
Calanog said Van Opstal staying with La Salle for his final year was really a ‘non-issue’ since he is currently enrolled after taking a leave of absence.
“First, he is currently enrolled, which is a requirement for eligibility for next season, and second, the only reason that he was parang resting from practices is that we lent him to the national team.
“Nag-reconfirm lang siya that he wants to play for us. As far as we are concerned, walang nagbago sa original plan,” said Calanog.
Van Opstal’s confirmation that he will be staying is a big development for the Green Archers’ campaign next season as big man Norbert Torres has played out his collegiate eligibility.
“Big deal for most teams to have a big man, which is lacking in the current recruits. Somebody like Arnold will definitely be a big help, knowing na nawala si Norbert, which was instrumental in our campaign last year.
“At the very least, if Arnold can fill in that void, hopefully, we will still be okay this year,” said Calanog.
Van Opstal is part of the 16-man Gilas cadet pool that will compete for the Philippines in this year’s Southeast Asian Basketball Association (Seaba) championship in April and the Southeast Asian Games in June.