MANILA, Philippines – De La Salle University big man Ben Mbala won all individual awards in the 2016 FilOil Flying V Preseason Cup, but "The Kid from Cameroon" insisted that the Green Archers' triumph was what truly mattered.
Ahead of their Finals showdown against Arellano University, Mbala was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player, Best Defensive Player, and joined teammates Jeron Teng and Abu Tratter – along with Arellano's Jiovani Jalalon and Kent Salado – in the Mythical Five.
He lived up to his MVP-billing in the title game, scoring 28 points, grabbing 26 rebounds, and rejecting a tournament-record eight blocks to power La Salle to an 86-74 victory.
(READ: Jalalon can’t run over Mbala as DLSU sweeps Filoil)
Mbala ended his FilOil campaign with 226 points – the most a player has scored in a single tournament. Yet when informed of his record-breaking performance after the contest, he did not seem too concerned.
"I'm not really aware of things that I'm doing right now," he said. "I'm just really trying to focus on what coach is asking me to do. Coach wants me to be present everywhere, defensively and offensively."
"I'm not looking for points or blocks – I'm just really looking to help the team and follow what the coach is asking me to do," he stressed.
Mbala's imposing presence has made La Salle the odds-on favorite to win the UAAP championship in Season 79, especially as he plays in Aldin Ayo's "House of Chaos" system and teams up with Tratter and Teng to anchor the Green Archers.
His impressive statistics – Mbala averaged 21.3 points, 15.4 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks in the preseason tilt – will likely make him the MVP favorite in the UAAP as well.
Mbala, however, made it clear he was not interested in gunning for individual awards.
"Not really," he said. "I'm just really trying to help the team as much as I can. I'm not looking for those things. I just really want to be there for the team and my teammates."
"It's not about going there and showing off what I can do, or looking for this award. I just want my teammates to know that I can have their backs," he added. "I'm not looking forward to getting this or that."
"I just really want to help the team on offense and defense. That's it."
Ayo, for his part, said Mbala "just wants to win" and is willing to do whatever is asked of him.
"Kung mananalo kami sa rebounds, magre-rebound lang ito," he said, gesturing to his player. "Hindi ito pupuntos. Kung mananalo kami sa puntos, pupuntos ito."
"Kung ano i-order mo dito, gagawin ito ni Ben eh, and the good thing about that is, he's willing to sacrifice himself for the team. He's really matured. Gusto lang manalo. Kami naman, gusto lang namin manalo," he added.
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