by Jerome Lagunzad
Plans are already in place for Ben Mbala’s future replacement at UAAP powerhouse La Salle.
Unimpeachable sources told Manila Bulletin/Tempo that the Green Archers team management has expressed strong interest in acquiring Diliman College’s prized reinforcement Adama Diakhite who’s making big waves in the Universities and Colleges Basketball League (UCBL) so far.
Arguably the most talented foreign student-athlete outside of the country’s top two collegiate tourneys, the 6-foot-9 Diakhite has readily lived up to his lofty billing, averaging 21 points, 12.5 rebounds, 4.5 blocks and 1.0 steal while leading the Blue Dragons to a quick 2-0 start.
The Senegalese big man, who just turned 20 last April, initially made heads turn during Diliman College’s title run in the Fr. Martin’s Cup last June when he held his ground against University of Santo Tomas’ Cameroon counterpart Steve Akomo and University of the Philippines’ blue-chip recruit Bright Akhuetie.
Diakhite’s strong performance certainly caught the attention of several UAAP schools, according to Blue Dragons mentor Rensy Bajar.
“Marami namang schools ang nanliligaw na sa kanya. Bukod sa La Salle, nagparamdam na rin ang Ateneo at Adamson,” he admitted. “Buti nga bago magsimula ‘tong UCBL (Season 2), nasa amin pa si Adama.”
If things fall according to plan, La Salle could field Diakhite for Season 82 in 2019 since the 6-foot-7 Mbala, the league’s reigning MVP, still has two more years left to play, including this on-going Season 80 where they will try to defend the coveted men’s cage crown.
Bajar, who once called the shots for the Fighting Maroons in Season 78, feels Diakhite could still be a force to be reckoned with on a tougher UAAP field. “Kinain niya ‘yung mga nakalaban niya UAAP imports du’n sa Fr. Martin’s Cup. Ang hindi niya pa lang nakakatapat si Mbala na lang,” he shared.
Also receiving feelers from other UAAP schools is Colegio de San Lorenzo’s all-around import Soulemane Chabi Yo.
The 6-foot-6 Benin native has emerged as the Griffins’ inside force in their similar unbeaten 2-0 start underscored by his game-averages of 20.0 points, 13.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.0 steal.
“May mga lumiligaw na rin sa kanya. Halos mga taga UAAP rin. Pero hindi ko ‘yan ibibigay,” said CDSL coach Boni Garcia, who politely declined to disclose Chabi Yo’s suitors.
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