The De La Salle Green Archers are the overwhelming favorites to win the basketball crown in the 79th season of the UAAP. Its imposing lineup is already the most feared in the league. And with the attendant KD-to-Golden-State-level of hype surrounding them, the big question experts, fans, and self-styled analysts currently busy themselves chewing on is this: Can they be stopped?
Here are five reasons why we think it's going to be a back-crushing endeavor for the rest of the basketball field.
Big Ben Mbala
African student-athletes have been lording over the hardwood in the collegiate leagues in recent years. Leading the pack are San Beda’s Sam Ekwe and Sudan Daniel in the NCAA. In the UAAP, frontcourt terrors Karim Abdul of UST and former UE Red Warrior Charles Mammie come to mind. All of them, however, have got nothing on DLSU's intimidating Cameroonian reinforcement when it comes to athleticism.
The 22-year-old 6’7” stud, who formerly played for the Southwestern University of Cebu, possesses a lethal combination of size, agility, and power we haven’t seen before in the UAAP.
He can run the floor, he’s explosive, and he relishes playing above the rim on both ends of the floor. He’s going to be a scoring machine, rebounding monster, and solid rim protector for La Salle. In the recent Fil-Oil Flying V Preseason Cup, Mbala averaged 23 points, 15 boards, and 2 blocks per game. He'll likely bring the house down with a barrage of jolting slams, all while putting up the same mammoth numbers come game time.
After sitting out three playing years due to UAAP residency rules and a bonehead offseason violation, it looks like Big Ben Mbala is worth the wait.
Mbala and Abu Tratter will probably start as center and forward respectively for DLSU. The 6’6” Tratter, playing in his last year, figures to be the perfect bruise brother to the beastly Mbala. Together, the two big men ruled the shot-blocking and rebounding departments during their tune-up games in preparation for Season 79.
Backstopping them are talented veterans Prince Rivero and Jason Perkins. The Archers will benefit from Rivero’s craftiness inside and his interior passing, while the reliable Perkins will continue giving his team a lift through his offensive versatility. When the big boys rest, Rivero and Perkins, two players who would’ve been main options on any other squad, will be there to keep the interior stable for La Salle.
King Archer's last hurrah
Let’s not forget that DLSU has another major force in its lineup—Jeron Teng. A legit ace and a proven shot-maker in the clutch, Teng is as unstoppable a scorer as any other hoops hero catching fire. If other teams somehow find a kryptonite to slow Mbala down, the Taft-based team still has Teng to deliver in winning time. What luxury!
Thomas Torres is shaping up to be the tournament's steadiest floor general this season. In his last year playing college ball, Torres will be the most experienced point guard in the fray. His backcourt partners, Andrei Caracut and Jolo Go, will help him on the offensive end tremendously. The two shooting specialists’ long-range prowess can open up the lane for Torres to create freely. Plus, they’ll be launching the ball up confidently, knowing Mbala and Tratter will be there to crash the boards. You know how it goes, confident shooter=splash.
Aside from Mbala, there are two Green Archer rookies that are worth keeping an eye on. We’re talking about Prince Rivero’s high-flying brother, Ricci, and promising point guard Aljun Melecio. Opposing teams shouldn't sleep on these two young guns for they might put up a brilliant performance or two this season.
The captain of this team's star-studded ship is Aldin Ayo, the man who led an undersized Letran squad to the championship at last year's NCAA Season 91 basketball tilt. Under his watch, expect the Archers to be a cohesive unit, keen on exemplifying Shaolin-like discipline both offensively and defensively. DLSU nation will also be seeing their team's vaunted swarming press anew as Ayo is also known for employing the dreaded defensive scheme.