MANILA, Philippines—There was no way Ben Mbala was missing De La Salle University's game against Far Eastern University on Wednesday afternoon.
The Green Archers were taking on the Tamaraws in a do-or-die contest for the last spot in the UAAP Season 81 men's basketball final 4, and the former two-time Most Valuable Player made sure to be there.
"I had to take an Angkas to be on time. It was super traffic, but I wanted to be here for the team and support them," said Mbala, who arrived in time to catch the last four minutes of the first half, then spent most of halftime taking pictures with La Salle supporters before joining the team in the dugout.
"I want to show (the La Salle community) my support," he added. "I wanna show them that I'm grateful for everything they've done for me. And I'm always a La Sallian, I will always be a La Sallian."
The Cameroonian big man starred for La Salle in Seasons 79 and 80, winning MVP honors in both seasons while leading the Green Archers to the title in 2016. He left Taft at the end of 2017, and has since been playing professionally abroad.
"I'm good, you know, supposed to be on vacation, but then a lot of things happened, but I'm good," said Mbala, who has been in the Philippines since Thursday.
"Big Ben" was supposed to play in the PBA to replace Magnolia's Romeo Travis, who sustained a hamstring strain in the Governors' Cup semifinals. However, Travis was able to keep playing, and so Mbala is "on standby."
"We'll see," he said of what happens next for his basketball career.
In the meantime, he plans to enjoy the action in the knockout game between FEU and La Salle, and is confident that his team can pull off the triumph and advance to the final 4.
"It's gonna be a tight game at the end of the game, and it will go down to execution," he predicted. "I just hope the guys will be tough enough to like, not crumble underneath the pressure."
"But I'm sure they can handle it, they'll be fine," he added.
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