MANILA, Philippines—They may be in the midst of a war for UAAP supremacy, but Ateneo de Manila University head coach Tab Baldwin still found time to possibly help Ben Mbala of De La Salle University with his future career in basketball.
A few hours after Mbala led La Salle to a stunning come-from-behind win over Ateneo, 92-83, in Game 2 of the UAAP Season 80 Finals, Baldwin revealed that at least one foreign club has called him regarding the 6-foot-8 Cameroonian player.
“I just was getting messages from a club in Turkey, asking about him,” said Baldwin, without getting into specifics.
“I gave Ben a very good reference, because I believe he deserves a very good reference,” the Ateneo coach added. “And I would do that to any player who I think is an outstanding player, and Ben is.”
Mbala has already gained international acclaim with his performances for Cameroon in the 2017 Afro Basket this year, and has followed that up with another superb season for the Green Archers in the UAAP.
The big man was nothing short of dominant for La Salle, running away with a second consecutive MVP trophy while leading the defending champions back to the finals.
On Wednesday against Ateneo, he sparked the Green Archers’ comeback from a 21-point deficit with a monster slam dunk that woke up his team from a lethargic start.
Mbala finished with 20 points, 16 rebounds, three steals and four blocks – a massive improvement from his paltry eight-point output in the Game 1 loss.
That Mbala left his mark in Game 2 was of no surprise to Baldwin.
“Ben is a good player,” said the Kiwi-American coach. “Even in Game 1, he showed good things. He’s a very, very good player.”
Mbala said he is just focused on bringing another title for La Salle.
“Coming into Game 2, we didn’t come here to lose the game. Everyone wants to be champions,” he said. “It’s not like we’re going to go out there and be like, ‘Oh, we won the game, I got the MVP, that’s it’.”
“No. We go here to be champions, that’s what we all work for. We’re gonna come out to try to grab that trophy (in Game 3),” he promised.
Game 3 of the Finals is on Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum.
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.)
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