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Former UAAP standout Ben Mbala considered as temporary Magnolia import, says Victolero

Rick Johnsen Dela Cruz/Dugout Philippines (file photo)
By Ricky Manliguis

ANTIPOLO-- Magnolia Hotshots head coach Chito Victolero revealed that former La Salle standout Ben Mbala was considered as a temporary import during its semifinals series with Ginebra in the 2018 PBA Governors's Cup.

Victolero said at post-game that the name of the former two-time UAAP MVP popped out when import Romeo Travis suffered a Grade 2 hamstring injury prior to Game 4.

"Since yesterday, hirap siya [Travis]. But tinignan siya ni Dr. [George] Canlas and then we had a clearance this morning,” he said.

The former Mapua Cardinal also said that the six-foot-eight Cameroonian, fresh from his stint in Korea, was already available to suit up had Travis been unavailable. He was contacted by former La Salle coach Juno Sauler, a member of Magnolia's coaching staff.

"Wala kaming choice. Ang choice lang namin is an import in Asia. Kasi if we get an import from the US, hindi aabot, from the papers, everything. We tried to get an import na malapit na sa Asia. Emergency lang naman,” said the two-year mentor. 

But despite the pain, Travis still exploded for 50 points and 13 rebounds as the Pambansang Manok deposed the erstwhile defending champs Gin Kings in Game 4, 112-108.

[Related Story: Ailing Travis sizzles as Magnolia dethrones Ginebra for finals ticket]

"Puso ng import ko – grabe wala akong masabi. 'Di makalakad 'yan kahapon tapos noong Game 3 talaga, nasaktan na siya but he forced to play kasi kailangan," Victolero added.

With the fifth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers coming up, the Pambansang Manok will have two weeks of rest and hope that Travis' injury will heal in time for the finals.

Follow him on Twitter: @Teaching_Hero