UAAP: The evolution of reigning MVP Ben Mbala

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Ben Mbala is leading the Cameroon national basketball team in points and rebounds at the 2017 Afrobasket.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Last year, La Salle big man Ben Mbala took the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) by storm, running away with the league's MVP award in his maiden season.

Mbala led the Taft-based squad to a championship with per-game numbers of 20.6 points, 16.0 rebounds, 2.4 blocks, and 1.4 steals.

The 6'7" big man was a force for La Salle as he locked down the paint on the defensive end, and punished opponents underneath the basket on offense.

The 22-year old cager is currently on international duty with the Cameroon national team at the 2017 Afrobasket in Tunisia, and it looks like he has adopted his game to the world stage.

Even at the international level Mbala has been dominant, leading his national team in points (18.3 per game) and rebounds (9.0 per game).

What is more worrying for his local opponents, is that the reigning UAAP MVP has added a new weapon to his arsenal.

"I am playing three and stretch four (for Cameroon)," Mbala told CNN Philippines. "So one of the things I have been doing a lot here is working on my threes and my outside game, and I would say that it is going pretty smooth."


In three games for Cameroon, Mbala has shot at a 31.2 percent clip from beyond the arc through 5.3 attempts per game.

To put everything in context, the Cameroonian star did not put up a single three point attempt during La Salle's championship run last year.

That could soon change though after La Salle coach Aldin Ayo revealed that he is considering utilizing Mbala in a different way moving forward.

"We always tell him to do new things," Ayo said after their opening day win against FEU. "We might convert him to the three spot when he comes back."

"He can play two, three, four, five for us now, because of the skill set that he has developed," Ayo added.

Also read: Defending champs La Salle weathers late FEU rally, 95-90

Apart from an expanded range, Mbala's experience at Afrobasket has forced him to add a new dimension to his game.

In the Philippines, the reigning MVP had the power to overwhelm his defenders with brute force, but that wasn't going to work in Tunisia.

"One of the things that I have learned is to learn how to play against bigger and stronger (players)," Mbala said. "I can't just back them down all the time. I need to be able to face them up, and play using my speed."

As with any MVP-caliber player, Mbala will have a target on his back the very moment he returns to the hardcourt for the Green Archers, and it will be up to him to live up to high expectations.

Should Mbala continue to develop his game beyond the shaded area, then La Salle could strengthen their bid to retain their UAAP crown.

Mbala will return to La Salle at the conclusion of the 2017 Afrobasket, which could see him suit up against the Adamson Soaring Falcons on September 20.

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