All it took was a cold-blooded shot to make it a debut worth remembering for Ben Mbala on Tuesday evening.
The 6-foot-5 forward made an underbasket stab at the buzzer off a beautiful Glenn Cosey dime to lift his Seoul Samsung Thunders past the gutsy Fubon Braves, 84-82, in the Asia League’s The Terrific 12 tilt in Macau.
That was a fitting welcome for the product of De La Salle University, who has returned to the continent where he is known the most after professional stints in Fuerza Regia de Monterrey in Mexico and in Chorale Roanne in the French league.
“He was able to attract the defense and I was wide open underneath the basket. He was able to give me a perfect pass, I was able to catch it, and I finished it,” recalled Mbala, who produced 22 points and 11 rebounds for the South Korean team.
But as much as he’s glad with the way his first game went, the former two-time UAAP Most Valuable Player was far from satisfied – not just with his personal showing, but with the way they all played.
The Thunders started the match strongly and even saw themselves lead by as many as 14 points. But complacency struck them hard in the second and third quarters, and that opened the door for the Braves to stage a comeback.
From a four-point deficit to start the final frame, the club team from Taiwan suddenly turned it up a notch, and a Wu Hung-Hsing two-pointer gave the Braves a favorable nine-point cushion, 70-61, with 7:32 on the clock.
“We started the game strong but we relaxed in the second and third. Luckily we got back on track and got the W.
“Since it’s the preseason we should be able to work on our transition and box out, that’s why we got a difficult game,” the Cameroonian added.
As for himself, Mbala wasn’t all that dominant, as he was defended by taller players. But the 23-year-old takes it as another lesson, which will only help him hone his game even more – he’s only in his second year as a pro.
“I’ll say it’s a process getting to my second year as a pro,” said the two-time Philippine collegiate champion.
“There’s still so many things to do. Just blessed to play with great guys, just always wanna learn from anyone and anywhere.”