WHEN Southwestern University and De La Salle clash on Monday in Game One of the best-of-three title series of the 2013 Philippine Collegiate Champions League, one man will be careful not to get caught in the crossfire.
Cameroonian forward Ben Mbala finds himself caught in the middle in the finals, having led the SWU Cobras to their only title in the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. (Cesafi) last year before moving to De La Salle where he is now serving his residency.
“I am in between because I am half-blooded Cobra, half-blooded Archer,” said Mbala.
That 'Big Ben' is now in his native Cameroon may be a nice coincidence since he won't have to be torn apart while his former and current team clash on court for the bragging rights as the best collegiate team in the land.
After leading the Cobras over the University of the Visayas Green Lancers last season for their historic first championship, Mbala attracted the attention of Manila-based teams in the semifinals of last year’s PCCL where he averaged 27 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.7 blocks.
He eventually signed up to join the Archers camp where he is currently is red-shirting in order to be eligible for the 2015 season of the UAAP.
Nevertheless, Mbala expressed pride for his former squad as it puts Cebuano basketball back on the map.
“I am proud of SWU because they are showing that basketball in Cebu is strong enough to compete again Manila’s teams. They are really making the Bisaya people proud of them,” said the former MVP of the Basketball Without Borders Africa camp.
"I am a proud player from Cebu and I will never forget where I first started."
But at the same time, Mbala also said that he was happy to see his current school keep their winning run going after capturing the UAAP crown earlier this year.
“On the other hand, I am very happy for my actual school DLSU because they are improving their game everyday and they are always getting better.”
That being said, Mbala mused that this time around, he’d rather be a basketball fan and appreciate the game rather than cheer for any particular side in this series.
“I wish good luck to both teams but I can't take sides," Mbala said with a laugh. "I will just appreciate the beauty of the game.”