The University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons bolstered an already loaded backcourt by acquiring former Cesafi MVP Jaybie Mantilla to join their campaign in UAAP Season 82.
The 23-year-old Mantilla is eligible to play right away as a one-and-done player, having already graduated from the University of San Jose-Recoletos.
His case is no different to that of another Cesafi MVP in Rey Suerte, who was recruited to play for the University of the East this season.
The 5-foot-9 Mantilla is currently playing for the Cebu Sharks-Casino Ethyl Alcohol but has already gotten the blessing of team owners to take a leave and join UP after head coach Bo Perasol personally spoke with top management of International Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Mantilla said he was shocked when he learned about UP's interest in him.
The pride of Pasil said Perasol himself met with him two weeks ago to talk about the school, the team and his possible role with the Maroons.
"It's shocking to me that a school like UP wants me to join their team," said Mantilla, who won MVP honors in the Cesai in 2017. "I only used to watch the UAAP games on TV and dream of what's it like to play in Mall of Asia Arena or the Araneta Coliseum."
Mantilla shared that Perasol envisions him playing the role of backup point guard to current starter and fellow Cesafi product, Jun Manzo.
"Coach Bo told me to just play the game the way I play it, with speed, force and no hesitation and I'm excited to do just that," said Mantilla, who will be joining the Maroons on Tuesday.
Mantilla admitted that he gets butterflies in his stomach just thinking of all the big names he will soon be playing with, referring to collegiate stars Juan Gomez de Liano, Ricci Rivero and Kobe Paras.
"These are all big-name players so I really have to work even harder to learn the system and mesh with the team they already have up there."
Mantilla adds that the University of the East was also interested in recruiting him but in the end, he chose UP because he appreciated how upfront Perasol was in talking to him and the management of the Sharks.
Sharks spokesperson Jerome Calatrava said that they will be keeping Mantilla's spot open for him once the UAAP concludes later this year.
For now, Mantilla will no longer be suiting up for Cebu in the upcoming Lakandula Cup.