//Spotlight
Jacob Bayla on His UP Debut, Exploring His Pinoy Roots

Besides Playing For UP, Jacob Bayla Also Gets The Chance To Explore His Filipino Roots

Jacob Bayla talks to The GAME about his early days as a UP Fighting Maroon, as well as the Philippines from on- and off-court perspectives.

Early into the year, a major pickup for the UP Fighting Maroons was Gilas Youth and Fil-Am Nation stalwart Jacob Bayla. A 6-foot-5 winger from California, the 18-year-old was a highly sought-after prospect heading into UAAP Season 87. 

Fortunately, it didn’t take long for Bayla to debut, making his first UP appearance in the 17th FilOil EcoOil Preseason Cup. Since suiting up against Ateneo last June 1, Bayla would spend the rest of the tilt in State U’s second unit, playing a good 15-20 minutes per match.

In five games played, Bayla would average four points and 1.8 boards per contest. Yet amid this transition, the rookie Fighting Maroon has made it a point to show his hustle early on. 

“What I can control is my effort, my attitude, and my energy on the court. So, if it’s not scoring, I’ll play defense and, you know, just be a presence on my team,” he told The GAME in an interview after the Fighting Maroons secured another FilOil championship against La Salle. 

Jacob Bayla UP vs Mapua
Jacob Bayla debuted for UP in the FilOil EcoOil Preseason Cup. (Photo Credit: FilOil EcoOil Preseason Cup Media Team)

As UP’s preseason continues, Bayla now looks to “step up in big moments, small moments, and just being an X factor for the team”, as a rookie Fighting Maroon. However, he was quick to acknowledge points for improvement in his game too. 

“Probably work on my ball handling and, you know, getting in my spots in Philippine basketball,” he admitted. 

Regardless, Bayla sees himself fitting in “very well” within Goldwyn Monteverde’s system. After all, the 18-year-old shared that Monteverde values defense, which he believes is one of the assets he brings to Diliman. 

There’s also UP’s “very intense” practices, which according to Bayla, is no different from their in-game intensity. Besides that, there’s also the “very on the go” nature of these practices, alongside prioritizing the “number one rule” of team play and smart basketball. 

Culture was another plus for the winger. Early on, it was easy for Bayla to see why UP has become a perennial championship contender in the UAAP.

“Everybody’s very welcoming and it’s like [a] championship level team, championship caliber. You know, I have a strong feeling that, you know, after this FilOil preseason championship, I hope to continue…You know, we can bring the UAAP 87 [title],” he said.

It also helps that through Fil-Am Nation, Bayla is connected to Zav Lucero and Henry Galinato, two names who need no introduction really. Thanks to them, not one, but two UP (now PBA) players were vouching for the 18-year-old’s new home.

“They’re like, UP is great. You know? UP’s gonna love you and just do your thing and work hard and good things will happen.”

The Philippines from two perspectives

Thanks to his UP debut, Jacob Bayla also gets an impression of local collegiate hoops. Early on, he pointed out that collegiate basketball here is “fast-paced” and more “team ball and sets”.

It’s a huge contrast to the States, he said, which focuses on isolation rather than team play. Of course, there are also the physical gifts of the Americans, which allow them to attack the basket easier. 

“[In the Philippines] people will hit you, but, you know, you gotta be ready for it. And I’m starting to get used to that in practice, because, you know, practice is very intense,” Bayla said of the local basketball scene. 

But of course, this type of basketball is something Bayla sees himself thriving in. Besides the different styles of play, he was also in awe of the crowd that he witnessed. 

If anything, it’s easy to understand Bayla. After all, he had witnessed a sea of maroon and the ever-passionate cheers of iskos and iskas as they won the FilOil championship. 

The UP crowd that Jacob Bayla witnessed in San Juan. (Video Credit: RJ Ballecer)

So what more once he gets a taste of the UAAP proper in a few months’ time? 

“For sure I enjoy playing here [in the Philippines], like, especially, like, with the crowd and stuff, like, you don’t really get a lot of that in the States…[It’s] like, loud. the drums, you can hear it…and you know? It gets my adrenaline up.” 

There’s also the off-court aspect of things. As is, coming to the Philippines is something Bayla enjoys thanks to “love and support” from everybody, alongside the overall “environment and love for basketball.” 

And through his UP stint, the 18-year-old will be in the Philippines for quite some time. Given this, he’s already looking forward to “fit in” and “take every single moment in”, given the opportunity to live and play basketball in the country.

There’s also the UP Diliman campus, which Bayla described as “huge” and has “lots of scenery” early on. But given his tight schedule, this is something he’ll get to explore further soon. 

Family time is another thing the UP rookie looks forward to, given that he was mostly Stateside. Apparently, he has “a lot” of family in the Philippines, with some even going to San Juan for UP’s FilOil championship.

And now, Bayla may just have the luxury of time, all thanks to pursuing collegiate hoops and academics in UP.

“I’ve been away from my dad for a while, and also, you know? Just learning more Tagalog, just embracing my Filipino side,” said Bayla, who admitted understanding Tagalog, but is also in the process of studying how to speak the language.

Banner Image courtesy of the FilOil EcoOil Preseason Cup Media Team.


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