UAAP rule crucial to Ben Mbala eligibility still 'up for discussion,' says La Salle official
The UAAP's seven-year-out-of-high-school rule, which puts a cap on the number of years a player can play in the UAAP after graduation from high school, is at the center of the Ben Mbala eligibility debate. Jerome Ascano

A top official of LA Salle said a UAAP rule that will determine the eligibility of Green Archers star Ben Mbala will be discussed and decided by the league board prior to next season.

Nongnong Calanog, La Salle’s representative to the UAAP’s board of managing directors, said there is no certainty with regards to the 'seven-years-out-of-high-school' rule that could disqualify Mbala if the board decides to reinstate it in time for next season.

“Up for discussion ‘yung rule na ‘yun,” said Calanog during a chance encounter with reporters.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported Mbala is facing ineligibility for Season 81 under the “seven-year out-of-high-school” rule, which puts a cap on a player's playing years in the collegiate league after his or her graduation from high school.

The Inquirer also obtained a copy of Mbala’s record that states the two-time UAAP MVP graduated from high school in 2011, proof that Mbala should no longer be eligible to play for La Salle in Season 81 if the seven-year rule is reinstated.

The league suspended the “seven-year out-of-high-school” rule for Seasons 79 and 80 due to a dearth in fresh recruits owing to the implementation of the K-12 program for high school students.

However, the rule was suspended under the understanding that it will be applied again afterwards until such time the suspension is extended, or the rule is amended or repealed by the UAAP board.

Mbala will be ruled ineligible if the UAAP board decides to reinstate the rule.

La Salle coach Aldin Ayo insisted Mbala still has one year of eligibility left for the Green Archers, who were recently edged by Ateneo in three closely played games in the Season 80 finals.

The issue on Mbala is not expected to be resolved anytime soon.

League insiders believe it will only be resolved in the days before Season 81, citing the case of University of Santo Tomas center Steve Akomo and University of the Philippines big man Ibrahim Ouattara.

Akomo and Ouattara had faced disqualification fears prior to last season but were eventually declared eligible after a vote by the UAAP board of directors, now composed of presidents of the member schools, days before the opening of the league last September.

“You know the UAAP,” said the source knowingly.

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