What would have happened if Ben Mbala played out his final year of eligibility with La Salle? Would have he stopped the current Ateneo dynasty?
Back in December of 2017, a frustrated Mbala decided to turn pro after his eligibility for Season 81 fell into question.
He wanted no more drama, saying that he “no longer wanted to turn down offers”.
“People from DLSU were telling me, ‘You gotta wait, there’s gonna be a vote’ and all that. And I’m like, they can just reverse the rule over and over if they don’t want me to play,” Mbala told The Prospects Pod, presented by SMART Sports.
“I’m just not gonna be out there sitting and letting them decide for myself.”
But if he had remained, Mbala feels a lot of things that followed after would not have happened — including the Rivero brothers and Brent Paraiso leaving the team.
“I think so [winning another championship].
“I think if I stayed [they would’ve stayed], because the guys left when I left. Like Ricci for example left. I felt Ricci would be playing on a different level because he would have more responsibility. It will probably me, Ricci, Aljun Melecio, and Andrei Caracut. Prince was already graduating and look at what Balti [Justine Baltazar] did, I think he was an all-star,” he opined.
Besides the Rivero brothers’ departure, Aldin Ayo also parted ways with La Salle during that time, moving to University of Santo Tomas.
The Green Archers did not make the Final Four in Season 81, being knocked off by Far Eastern University in a heartbreaker, 70-71 in the battle for fourth.
Season 81 saw Ateneo dominate with Ivorian big man Ange Kouame as the team’s rock.
But even with the 6-foot-11 Ivorian there, 6-foot-6 Cameroonian Mbala says that he would never have backed down from that match-up.
“People tell me, no. Kouame would be there — that If I were there, it would be a different story.
“I’m telling you right now, it’s not about the size, especially when you play in the UAAP. It was about the system, the system that we had. If you are slow, you can’t play. It doesn’t matter how big or how tall you were. Coach [Aldin Ayo and Louie Gonzalez] wanted guys to be able to switch, to be mobile — like to be able to sprint. That’s why when people try to tell me Kouame against me would’ve been — it’s not a one-on-one game. People don’t understand that it’s five-on-five,” he opined.