FOLLOWING its successful recruiting bid on former high school standout Jeron Teng, De La Salle is still on the lookout for more weapons to add to in its arsenal as the school tries to regain lost glory in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament.
Among those reportedly on the radar of the Green Archers are Bacolod star Kib Montalbo and Cebu big man sensation Ben Mbala, both of whom are rumored to be headed to the Taft-based school through the efforts of chief patron Eduardo ‘Danding’ Cojuangco.
The country’s former basketball ambassador is no stranger to building championship-caliber teams as he was once the Archers' top supporter during the 1970s and 80s. He also served as godfather of the Northern Consolidated national basketball team that won the Asian Basketball Confederation (now FIBA-Asia) crown in 1986.
A high-ranking sports official of the school didn’t go into specifics when asked to confirm whether Montalbo and Mbala are indeed, being lured to play for La Salle.
“Very good source,” said the official, who refused to be named. “But of course, kailangan muna nila mag-exam.”
The Green Archers enjoyed their finest seasons in the UAAP when they won four straight championships from 1998 to 2001 under Franz Pumaren, now the head coach of Air21.
But after winning its last title in 2007, La Salle failed to attract top-notch rookies and talent from other schools, resulting in the minor breakdown of its famed basketball program.
All that changed the moment the school tapped the services of Teng, the high-scoring junior star who once dropped 104 points while playing for Xavier School in the Metro Manila Tiong Lian Basketball League.
Teng went on to win Rookie of the Year and Mythical Five honors last season as he became the first Green Archer to make the mythical team since JV Casio and Rico Maierhofer achieved the feat in 2008.
Montalbo has been making a name for himself down south in steering St. John Institute to the Negros Occidental Private Schools Sports Cultural Education Association (Nopsscea) high school basketball crown last year.
That Cojuangco himself hails from Bacolod could easily sway Montalbo into agreeing to suit up for the Green Archers in college.
But sources also said Ateneo, La Salle’s arch-rival, is also pursuing the services of Montalbo since years back, with former Ateneo coach Norman Black personally visiting the Bacolod star during every University Games.
Meanwhile, Mbala has also drawn interest from Manila-based schools after the sensational stint of the Cameroonian center for Southwestern University in the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. (Cesafi) and the Philippine Collegiate Champions League, respectively.
With his dominating presence inside the paint, Mbala steered the Cobras to their first-ever Cesafi title, and then astounded Manila-based teams during the PCCL Final Four by dumping 41 big points on eventual champion University of Santo Tomas.