News & Updates

Jacob Bayla joins UP Fighting Maroons

The UP men’s basketball team has successfully caught its big prize.

Jacob Bayla officially announced during the Fil-Am Nation high school showcase in California on Saturday, May 4 that he is going to play college basketball in the Philippines for Goldwin Monteverde’s Fighting Maroons.

Bayla, who was born to Filipino parents, stands at 6-foot-6 with a 6-foot-8 wingspan. He is eligible as a true freshman beginning Season 87 in 2024 and can play up to five seasons with University of the Philippines.

One of the most anticipated recruits in years, Bayla figures to be a household name in the Philippine basketball scene and could blossom into a star in the long run.

“Ever since my sophomore year… they always showed love,” Bayla said about UP management in an exclusive sit-down interview with All-Star Magazine while he was in Manila for NBTC.

“I feel like they actually care for me and really want me in their program. They showed a lot of support and a lot love to me so I would like to give that love back.”

UP began recruiting Bayla as early as 2022 following his stint with the Gilas youth team. Ateneo expressed initial interest to attain him as well while La Salle invited him for workouts with the Green Archers, but it was UP’s consistent efforts the last two years – including multiple visits to Los Angeles to watch him play – which won his commitment.

“I feel like they actually care for me and really want me in their program. They showed a lot of support and a lot love to me so I would like to give that love back,” Bayla said.

Bayla averaged 20 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists a contest in his recent senior season with Valley Christian High School. He was also instrumental in leading Fil-Am Nation to the NBTC national championship in March. Bayla can finish in the paint, score in mid-range, knock down three-pointers, protect the rim on defense, and provide the intangibles to help his team win.

He is also an achiever in the classroom, notching a GPA above 4.0 which makes him eligible to graduate with honors this month. Bayla passed entrance exams at top-notch academic institutions such as UCLA, UC Davis, and University of California, Santa Barbara.

Bayla had the option to enroll in the aforementioned educational institutions where he was accepted and try his luck to make the varsity team as a walk-on, commit to one of the NCAA D2 offers he received, or even play professional basketball.

Bayla worked out with a few KBL teams in early 2024, including top contenders in the league. There were exploratory discussions on a possible one plus one offer (one year contract and a player option), but after reflection and discussing with family and friends, the gifted student-athlete opted for University of the Philippines.

“When I came here in 2022 for Batang Gilas, first day we came to watch UP vs. La Salle, so I saw that environment. Especially during COVID, it was packed. People were wearing masks and everything… People show love over here, so I really want to play here in the big stage,” he said.

Bayla, a product of Fil-Am Nation’s developmental program for young basketball prospects, received valuable advice from Another Fil-Am Nation alum in Zavier Lucero, who helped end UP’s 36-year UAAP championship drought in Season 84. Lucero, who played two seasons wearing UP’s name on his chest, also made a Mythical 5 team, and is currently having a superb rookie season with NorthPort in the PBA.

“He paved the way for Fil-Ams in the Philippines,” Bayla recognized Lucero’s lasting impact. “He gave me a lot of advice about coming here and what I should expect.”

Bayla is aware teams and opposing players will be eager to shut him down and test the hype surrounding his abilities, but he isn’t intimidated by the challenge.

“I don’t feel pressure. I just want to come out here and play my game and do my thing.”

Part of his thing will be to help UP reclaim the UAAP title after two straight crushing Finals defeats.

Needless to say, Jacob Bayla is up for the challenge.

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