CAN Ben Mbala get the green light from the UAAP board?
The prized La Salle recruit's eligibility for the coming college basketball season is set to be decided next week, months after he fell foul of residency rules over reports he played in an unsanctioned tournament in General Santos City.
Sources told Spin.ph on Thursday that La Salle is set to plead the case of the 6-7 Cameroonian recruit during the UAAP board meeting on Monday where the eligibility of all the players will be scrutinized.
It will be recalled that Mbala's eligibility came under question in January when he played in the Pacman Cup tournament in General Santos City in violation of the college league's residency rules.
Mbala was in the final year of his two-year residency with La Salle after seeing action for Southwestern University in Cebu when the controversy erupted.
However, sources said La Salle is expected to plead his case armed with a certification from the Pacman Cup organizers attesting that Mbala did not receive any payment for playing in the 'trophy-only' tournament.
Sources said tournament honoree Manny Pacquiao himself was one of the signatories.
The document was already submitted to the UAAP eligibility committee last Tuesday and will be deliberated upon by representatives of the member schools on Monday, sources added.
Mbala should be central to the Green Archers' campaign this season after the departure of senior Norbert Torres and the decision of another big man, Arnold Van Opstal, not to play this season.
Sources have also told Spin.ph that the Green Archers play tune-up games in the offseason with Mbala in the lineup - a tip that was later confirmed by Arellano University star and Gilas cadet Jiovani Jalalon.
Jalalon also described Mbala as a 'more aggressive' version of San Beda's Ola Adeogun.
"Naglaro po si Mbala, ang lakas nga eh. Binubuhat nga yung mga big men namin eh. Ang lakas niya sa ilalim, saka 'yung rebound nado-dominate niya. Parang si Ola (Adeogun), pero mas aggressive siya kay Ola," said Jalalon.
"Nagulat nga kami kasi alam namin na hindi siya makakalaro sa isyu ng ligang labas, tapos biglang nagbihis eh," added Jalalon after the tune-up game between the Archers and the Chiefs.
"Ang lakas ng La Salle kung andun yun, kung wala 'yung Mbala, walang maayos na big man ang La Salle, puro bata," he added.
If the eligibility committee fails to settle the matter, Mbala's case may likely come down to a vote by the board.
This early, at least two schools have made it clear they will stand in the way of Mbala's plea.
Ateneo athletic director Ricky Palou said he will wait for the result of the initial eligibility screening and insisted that they will only act based on the outcome of the investigation.
"Kung okay naman ang papeles (ni Mbala), bakit namin ku-kwestyunin (ang eligibility nya). I don't know what papers or documents they submitted," said Palou.