BEN Mbala won't be suiting up for La Salle when it opens its title defense in the UAAP Season 80 in a hotly anticipated match-up against Far Eastern University on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The reigning MVP was called up by Cameroon for the 2017 FIBA Afrobasket set in Senegal and Tunisia from September 8-16.
That will automatically rule him out for their match-up against the Tamaraws just a few weeks after a highly publicized brawl between the two teams in Davao City.
Should Cameroon go on a deep run in the AfroBasket tournament, Mbala could also miss their second game against National University on Sept. 16.
La Salle head coach Aldin Ayo confirmed that Mbala already joined Cameroon roughly three weeks ago and his absence will definitely be felt in the first two games.
"He's definitely going to miss our first game, hopefully by second game andun na siya," said Ayo.
"We'll just do the same thing para pagdating niya, di na kami magadjust. Isa or dalawang laro lang naman yan e. Kung magadjust kami ngayon, baka pagdating ni Ben mahirapan kami pagbalik," he added.
Though Ayo admitted that losing Mbala will be a big blow, the outspoken mentor knows that this move would benefit La Salle in the long run.
Playing against men his size or bigger will definitely strengthen Ben Mbala as he heads back into the tournament where it's actually hard to find someone who can match up with him.
“Of course he's going to learn new things and improve. That's the very purpose why he went there as an individual and as a player," Ayo continued.
"May setback sa amin kasi wala siya, pero for sure pagbalik niya, he'll be a better player, a better Ben."
Things could get even more challenging, though, when the African qualifiers for the Fiba World Cup kicks off late November.
Though nothing is cast in stone yet, Mbala could get called-up once again, putting in the possibility of the hulking big man to miss more games for La Salle.
But Ayo leaves the decision to Mbala and the management should that day come, though personally, he'd let Mbala have his way.
"It's up to Ben and up to the managers and up to boss. As his coach, whatever's best for him, I'm going to support him," he said.