BEN Mbala exceeded expectations in his return to La Salle after missing its first two games in the UAAP Season 80.
Coming off his stint with Cameroon in the 2017 FIBA Afrobasket, Mbala sustained his impressive play in an 85-73 win over Adamson after posting a career-best 32 points on 11-of-16 shooting to go along 10 boards and four blocks.
“Well, as expected. Even you guys, nage-expect na ganoon ang magiging laro ni Ben after his stint doon sa liga na sinalihan niya,” said La Salle head coach Aldin Ayo.
“Even us, his coaches and even his teammates, we were expecting na ganito ang ilalaro. Pero siyempre, there will be.. may kaunting adjustment,” he added.
The Cameroonian import was also quick to show his improved range, draining a three-pointer just a little over a minute into the game.
He looked a lot quicker on his feet as well, comfortably putting the ball down and even threw one sick dunk off a spin move in the third period.
What’s scarier for opponents of La Salle is that Mbala is still adjusting to a big man’s role with the Archers after playing forward against bigger, tougher opponents in the Fiba AfroBasket.
“I’ll say yes (tried to be more aggressive). It’s a different type of game. It’s a lot of running. Compared to AfroBasket, it’s small. I’m used to it. It’s not a problem to me,” said Mbala.
“Just gotta find a way to adjust. I cannot make the excuse that I’m jet-lagged or something like that. I should’ve found a way to adjust and be accountable for the team and help the team to win every single game,” he added.
The 22-year-old big man made two of his four three point attempts and admitted that it’s a facet of his game that he was eager to work on.
Given the opportunity to play outside of the five position for Cameroon, Mbala didn’t waste that golden opportunity to hone his skills further and from the looks of it, it’s starting to pay-off.
“I didn’t stop working on them when I left. I was really working on it during offseason. I just—I feel like I needed the confidence to be able to take them and make them. I was looking at the AfroBasket to play as a three, four and take those shots,” said Mbala.
“In the Afrobasket, it’s a completely different level of game. The guys there are pros. Some of them are ex-NBA players. They’re smart, they’re skilled. Their basketball IQs are really high. You gotta find a way to match up and compete,” he added.
What excites Ayo now is how Mbala’s stint with Cameroon proved to be beneficial for both parties as they were able to work on themselves with their MVP away the same away Mbala worked on his individual game with Cameroon.
“We know that when Ben was away, we have gained a lot as a team, and Ben also gained a lot as an individual player. So it's just a matter of putting things together and work on it,” said the La Salle coach.