Saturday, December 1, 2012

Who Is Benoit Mbala?

I was fortunate enough to have met SWU rookie center Benoit Mbala during the PCCL Semis. He struck me as a very hard working athlete who plays hard on both ends of the court. I immediately noticed how he put emphasis on defense and was ready to body up and block shots. He's no slouch either when it comes to shooting. His 41 points, 16 rebounds and 4 blocks output against UAAP powerhouse UST says a lot and he did that without committing a single foul.
Ben Mbala agreed to a short  interview and a chance for us to get to know him better.
Raddy Mabasa: Hi Ben, thanks a lot for letting me get a chance to ask you some questions. First off, watching you play, I thought that you had played college ball for some time now. How old are you?
Benoit Mbala: Well, first of all my full name is Benoit Mbala Mendzana and I am 17 years old.
RM: Where were you born? Did you come from a large family?
BM: I am Cameroonian and I am from Yaounde, the capital. I come from a family of 5 children and I am the youngest. 
RM: How tall and how heavy are you?
BM: I am about 6'7" and 240 lbs.

RM: That should make opposing centers' life more difficult considering you can easily out-reach and out-push most of them. Tell me, how did you find yourself in the Philippines.
BM: Moustapha Arafat who is now suiting up for UE is a very close friend of mine.  We played in Basketball Without Borders* together and when he came over to the Philippines he convinced me to come over as well because according to him this is a great basketball country. I arrived here when i was still 16 years of age. I tell you, it was very hard for my family to let me go because I was the youngest and I had plans of going to the United States after the BWB camp.

RM: I'm sure there were a lot of other good players with you in that camp. How did you do compared to the others?
BM: I managed to be MVP of the camp, that is why I was supposed to go to the US after the camp ended.

RM: Wow, you chose the Philippines over the US! How did you get started with basketball?
BM: I used to play soccer but I started to grow taller really fast and when I turned 12 I started to play basketball and fell in love with the sport. My mum bought me a personal court so i could practice anytime I wanted. A friend of my brother also saw my height and introduced me to a team.  

RM: Why didn't you come to Manila? Why Cebu?
BM: Because the one who first contacted me was SWU Coach Yayoy Alcoseba and he asked me to play for his team.

RM: Speaking of Coach Alcoseba, how would you describe him?

BM: Coach Yayoy is more than a coach to me. He is more like a father. He is also a friend and teacher who guides me as well outside of the court.

RM: What course are you enrolled in?
BM: I am taking up Accounting.

RM: Did you ever stop playing soccer?
BM: I still play soccer because it is the national sport in Cameroon.

RM: Almost all basketball players look up to someone. Who do you admire the most?
BM: As a basketball player, you have to try to be complete so that you can adjust to every situation. I get this attitude from the player I idolize: LeBron James. He is good in offense but he also cares about defense, boxing out, rebounding, blocking, and helping his teammates get better. When LeBron lost a number of playoff and championship matches he was criticized by many people but he still keep on going hard, working hard, playing hard.
RM: Yes, it is very apparent that you work really hard on both your offense and defense. Can you tell me something about that game against UST where you scored 41 points, got 16 rebounds blocked 4 shots?
BM: All I can say is I was really mad because we lost our first two games and I didn't want to end up losing the third. We were playing for and representing the Southern Islands, we had to win at least a game.
RM: Just a few final questions. Who are you closest to on your team?
BM: That would have to be Justin Aboude. He is older than me and he is always helping me out by giving me advice and cheering me up. I consider him like my older brother.
RM: What are your plans after you graduate?
BM: After college I want to try and play basketball in a professional league. If not, then I will find a job and start a family.

RM: With your talent and attitude I think it will be easy for you to find a team who needs your abilities. By the way, do you have a routine before a game? 
BM: Before every game I pray because I come from a Catholic family and God is the center of my life. After that I try to focus on what will happen during the game. I don't do anything special, I just try to concentrate on the instructions of the coach.

RM: What is a typical day for Ben Mbala?
BM: A typical practice day for me is jogging, work out, and practice (shooting skills, dribbling skills, etc.).
RM: In a few words, can you describe yourself?
BM: I am a simple guy who likes to be crazy and have fun but also knows when to be serious.
RM: Lastly, I heard some rumors that there are Universities in Manila who were impressed with your brand of basketball. Any chance you would consider playing here?
BM: I don't really know about moving to Manila, but you know as a player I need greater challenges to see where I still need to improve.
RM: Ok, Ben, thank you again for your time and for sharing all these personal insights. The best of luck to you and your basketball career.
BM: Thank you too!

*Basketball Without Borders is a FIBA and NBA international development and community relations outreach program. About 1,000 young athletes from over 100 countries and territories worldwide participate in this program to promote  leadership, education and sportsmanship among other things.

Added Feb 2013...Recent news has come out that Ben Mbala will be seeing action for DLSU after a 1 year residency! We wish him all the best and see great things for him and DLSU in the coming years! Another milestone in what is bound to become a storied career. Congratulations!!

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