As tournament favorites La Salle and National University collide for the first time in the UAAP Season 79, an interesting subplot on Sunday is the “Clash of Cameroonians”, which feature the Green Archers’ overpowering import Ben Mbala and the Bulldogs’ long-time defensive anchor Alfred Aroga.
The 6-foot-7 Mbala has played a big role in La Salle’s early 3-0 start, posting monstrous game-averages of 20.3 points on 58.3 percent shooting clip, along with a league-best 17.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks.
On the other hand, while Aroga appears far from his usual dominant self due to a nagging ankle sprain, the NU reinforcement still managed to get the job done in their first two victories, averaging team-highs of 13.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.0 blocks on top of 1.5 assists and 1.0 steal per game.
Aroga though is quick to play down the hype surrounding his initial encounter with the rock-solid Mbala, considered by many as the most dominant foreign student-athlete in the country’s collegiate ranks today.
“There’s no matchup here and I don’t focus on a certain individual,” he said, adding his main focus is on “how our whole team will play.”
Aroga felt he has to focus more on helping the Bulldogs collectively instead of just preparing for his individual match up with Mbala.
“Matchups or whatever, I don’t really care about that,” he stressed. “I’m focusing on being healthy and helping my team as much as I can to win games. It’s not my business and I only care about my team and my teammates.”
Mbala echoed Aroga’s notion, saying: “I’m not going out there to play one on one. It’s a team sport. It’s five against five. It’s not going to be me against Aroga. I’m just gonna out there and execute whatever coach (Aldin Ayo) will ask me to do.”
So far, Aroga, the 2014 Finals MVP, is pleased to see how his NU teammates are providing the needed support, with guard Rev Diputado, J-Jay Alejandro, former Green Archer Matt Salem and Reggie Morido coming through with averages of at least eight points per game.
“I want them to shine because I want them to be productive. The team will also be unpredictable,” he said.
“If it’s only Jay and I will score, the others won’t have confidence. We want them to become part of the game on both ends. You can’t win this championship on your own.” – Jerome Lagunzad
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