By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD, Va. —
From Paris, France to Gainesville, Fla., to Bluefield, Va., to Aschersleben, Germany. Those have been the stops in the basketball career of Borgia M’Bala.
A native of Paris, M’Bala attended The Rock School in the Sunshine State before playing on the collegiate level for the Bluefield College Rams. Now M’Bala is playing on the professional level with the Aschersleben Tigers. M’Bala tells how he became a member of the team.
“It all started my first summer out of Bluefield College,” M’Bala said. “I was working very hard on and off the court to have an opportunity to obtain my first professional contract. I did several tryouts for teams in different countries and also camps, but finally by the end of that summer the Tigers were looking for a guard, so I went there for a tryout and they wanted me.”
After about two weeks with the team M’Bala let the team for personal reasons and finished that season playing in his home country of France. However, the next season he returned to Aschersleben.
“I signed my second professional contract here,” M’Bala commented. “Aschersleben is a very nice town with lots of ambitions. The fans and people here are great and the club is always there for us. Glad to be back.”
M’Bala had an outstanding career at Bluefield College, a 6’3 guard, he played for the Rams from 2008-12.
“My BC experience was great. I attempted to leave after my sophomore year for a bigger school for basketball, but I do not regret that I stayed at all,” M’Bala said. “Coach Richard Morgan and Coach Keith Jennings helped me elevate my game in several aspects. That was the best opportunity for me because I played lots of minutes and was able to make a name in the BC book by scoring over a thousand points in four years. I met great people on and off the court.”
M’Bala said there were also other advantage to staying at Bluefield College for his junior and senior years.
“Staying at Bluefield College also helped my overall life because I now see pretty much everything differently,” M’Bala pointed out. “I am now able to see opportunities and take advantage of them whether it is basketball related or other. My mindset has changed from that little boy that entered college, not knowing anything, to the man I am now, with the help of all the people I met. I will always be a part of the Ram Fam.”
Playing college basketball was not a certainty for M’Bala. Coming out of high school he admitted he didn’t have many offers. The ones that did come were from community colleges and the University of North Florida and he was contemplating returning home.
“One day, out of nowhere when I thought I would maybe have to go back to France, I received a call from the assistant coach at BC, who was Ben Small back then, and he asked me if I wanted to come for a tryout,” M’Bala said. “So I traveled, tried out and made a good impression to the team and also to head coach (Jason) Gillespie, who coached me my freshman year.
“After visiting campus I thought it was a nice environment that would fit me and where I could be successful, so I signed my NLI (National Letter of Intent) with them.”
In M’Bala’s first nine games this season the Tigers are 4-5 and he averaged 13.5 points, five rebounds and one-and-a-half steals and assists per game. A knee injury during preseason kept M’Bala out of action for about five-and-a-half weeks but he said, “I’m fine now. I have been taken good care of with daily physiotherapy treatments and exercises.”
There are differences in basketball across the Atlantic Ocean. According to M’Bala the two biggest are pace and style.
“The pace is not the hardest part to get adjusted to because it doesn’t involve no one but yourself and it doesn’t involve your focus, or concentration,” M’Bala pointed out. “The style is completely different, now you have to make the right decisions on offense and defense. You can’t make mistakes on both sides of the court. For every mistake you make, you pay for it 99 percent of the time. In college it isn’t obvious when you make small mistakes because the game isn’t played as smart as in Europe. Here everyone on the team, including the coach, sees every mistake you make because all pro players around you know exactly what they have to do and where they have to be. This is the biggest adjustment to make for a baller from America coming to Europe.”
Another adjustment for M’Bala is communicating.
“I have traveled a lot and discovered so many things, but the biggest difference of playing in Germany as opposed to my homeland is the language,” M’Bala commented. “I have tried to learn German and I know a little now, but it is challenging. Other that that, for me, there aren’t too many things here different from my home country.”
M’Bala is one of two Bluefield College alumni playing professional basketball, as former teammate Omar Reed plays professionally in Japan. M’Bala talked about playing with Reed and the fact that two BC Rams are pros when many larger schools don’t have any pro players.
“First of all, Omar is a great player and I saw him getting better and better over the three years I played with him,” M’Bala said. “This (two pro players) is no luck. We both knew what we wanted and we have done things even out of our comfort zone to get here. There is no secret.
“My professor and coach from BC used to say, ‘The same things/habits you have now are the same ones you’ll do or have tomorrow.’ I have kept good habits since college, looking up to the juniors and seniors on campus, and that’s why I am where I am today. This is a journey ant it isn’t over yet.”
M’Bala concluded, “I would like people and kids out there to know that today I have realized my dream by doing something I love and am getting paid for it. You don’t have to be in the NBA, or be making big money to have success in your life. Success has different levels in life and the most important thing is to be part of it somehow and to be happy with it.”
— Contact Bob Redd at