AFTER a long wait, Ben Mbala is raring to finally suit up for De La Salle in the UAAP and has vowed redemption, both for himself and the squad he watched get eliminated in heartbreaking fashion by eventual champion Far Eastern University Tamaraw in the Final Four this past season.
The highly regarded Cameroonian forward was all set for his much-awaited debut this year after being recruited from Cebu’s Southwestern University several years back.
However, the Archer faithful were forced to wait another year after the 6-foot-7 forward was made to serve an additional year’s residency when he was caught playing in a commercial basketball tournament in General Santos City in violation of UAAP residency rules.
Mbala, however, has put the episode behind him and has set his eyes on getting back to work under new La Salle head coach Aldin Ayo in the hopes of bringing the Archers back to the top of the league.
“Next year will be a redemption year for us. We are a very young team with plenty of rookies and getting back to the top won't be an easy task for us,” shared Mbala in a talk with Spin.ph on Tuesday afternoon.
"But we still have a lot to work on and when we get to the season, it will more about mental toughness and experience especially on how to handle our fourth quarters," he added.
Mbala recalled how difficult it was for him watching from the sidelines, knowing how much he could have helped the squad especially inside the lane in a season that ended with a loss to a veritable second-string FEU side in its final game of the eliminations.
“I feel very excited and blessed to finally get to play. It wasn't really easy to go through especially seeing how bad the team really needed me,” the man known as 'Big Ben' shared.
While the UAAP season is a long ways off, Mbala said that his and the team’s focus is on getting familiar with the system of Ayo, who was brought in to replace Juno Sauler just weeks after guiding the Letran Knights to the NCAA championship.
“Yes we had a couple of training sessions before Christmas break with Coach Aldin. He introduced himself and the new coaching staff and also the foundations of what we will be doing for the coming season. He is a defensive-minded coach and he really expects us to play tough and physical,” narrated Mbala.
Needless to say, Mbala and the rest of the Archers have been forewarned about the tough grind ahead.
“We have been warned by Coach Aldin that there will be a lot of running,” added Mbala with a hearty laugh.