DE La Salle head coach Juno Sauler played down the Ben Mbala issue on Tuesday, saying he has bigger concerns than the 'ligang labas' issue that put the Green Archers recruit's eligibility for the next UAAP season under question.
Sauler confirmed a Spin.ph report that Mbala indeed 'played basketball' in General Santos City last month, which could mean sanctions from the UAAP in the form of an additional one year to his residency period.
“Yes, Ben played basketball in Gensan,” Sauler said in an SMS message to Spin.ph, although he didn't go into details.
The Cameroonian center is in the final year of his two-year residency since moving to the Taft-based school from Southwestern University in Cebu.
However, UAAP rules bar red-shirting players from playing in other leagues, unless they are representing their schools or have the expressed consent of the collegiate league.
If sanctioned for the GenSan stint, Mbala can only be eligible for the Archers in 2016.
That prospect, however, doesn't seem to bother Sauler, who said: “There are bigger issues that I concern myself with” than the controversy surrounding Mbala.
In a separate interview with Spin.ph, Mbala admitted playing in the Manny Pacquiao Sports Challege 'Pacman Cup' in General Santos City from December 2 to 9 but denied receiving any compensation for the stint.
His statements contradict information reaching Spin.ph that he and other college imports were paid in five figures on a per game basis in the eight-team tournament where his squad emerged champion and received the top prize of P600,000.
Mbala was also named the Finals MVP of the tournament, which, sources said, also featured a side led by Pacquiao and reinforced by KIA Sorento player Reil Cervantes.
League insiders expect La Salle officials to fight for Mbala's eligibility for next season on the grounds that he didn't receive any compensation for the GenSan stint.
However, officials who talked to Spin.ph on the condition of anonimity insisted Mbala's 'ligang labas' stint already constitutes a breach of residency rules, regardless of whether he accepted compensation or not.
Sauler said Mbala, as well as other players in all UAAP sports, will have to go through the process of their eligibility being evaluated prior to the start of the season.
“All players in the lineup, whatever sport, whatever school, are questioned with regards to eligibility. That’s the process conducted every year by the UAAP board,” Sauler said.