BEN Mbala remains committed to De La Salle University in the Philippines – despite attracting interest from NBA scouts at the recent FIBA Afrobasket tournament.
The 22-year-old centre, who moved to Philippines to study and play basketball as a teenager, said he was approached by NBA scouts while playing for Cameroon earlier this month.
However, his focus remains on La Salle and the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP).
“Like I told everyone, my focus is on the UAAP and finishing with the team,” Spin.ph quoted Mbala as saying.
“That’s the only thing I have in my mind right now.”
On the interest from the NBA, Mbala said he wanted it to remain “low key” and refused to name the teams for whom the scouts were working.
Mbala missed two games for La Salle while competing in Tunisia for Cameroon – but was back in La Salle colours on Wednesday, posting a league career-high 32 points, along with 10 rebounds and four blocks.
It is no surprise his performances at Afrobasket caught the eye of NBA scouts.
Mbala, whose team were eventually beaten by eventual runners-up Nigeria in the quarter-finals, averaged 21.8 points (second overall), 9.3 rebounds (second overall) and 2.3 steals (fourth overall) at the tournament.
Only Nigeria’s former Golden State Warriors, Indiana Pacers, Portland Trailblazers, Sacramento Kings, LA Clippers and San Antonio Spurs Ike Diogu averaged more points.
There is a precedent for NBA teams drafting Cameroonian players, which may bode well for Mbala.
Philadelphia 76ers drafted Joel Embiid third overall in 2014, Pascal Siakam was a first-round pick by the Toronto Raptors in 2016, and Luc Mbah a Moute – now on the Houston Rockets – is entering his tenth season in the NBA.
Mbala initially caught the eye when attending Mbah a Moute’s annual basketball camp in Cameroon, earning all-star selection which saw him qualify for the Basketball Without Borders camp in South Africa in 2011.
After winning MVP honours at Basketball Without Borders, he qualified for a scholarship at a United States university – but visa issues ended his ambition of studying and playing there.
Now, though, it seems he may be on track for an NBA career after all – and he is understandably keeping his options open.
Mbala has at least this season to play in the UAAP, and there have been talks over whether he will remain eligible for La Salle next season.
“As a basketball player, you also have to check all your options, see what’s coming,” he said.
“If ever there are offers, I will look at them but I can’t take any decisions right now because I’m so committed to La Salle and that’s my main priority right now.”