NATIONAL University rookie Jaja Santiago is weighing an offer of a volleyball scholarship from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) which would give her a chance to play Division I ball in the US NCAA.
Fresh from winning her maiden championship with the Lady Bulldogs in the Shakey's V-League, the 17-year-old younger sister of NU star Dindin told Spin.ph that she was contacted by UCLA assistant coach Joy McKienzie-Fuerbringer last March and offered to join the Bruins' successful volleyball program.
“Nagsabi po siya, si Ms Joy, na interested daw siya na sa akin na mapasama sa team niya,” said the prodigious spiker, moments after the Lady Bulldogs beat Ateneo's Lady Eagles in the deciding game of the Shakey's V-League Finals on Sunday night at the Philsports Arena.
Santiago said she has been offered a full scholarship and free board and lodging if she decides to join UCLA.
The 6-foot-4 spiker said McKienzie has offered to give her a tour of the UCLA campus in August, after which she will be given two options: stay on and join the Bruins' program or go home and play with the Lady Bulldogs while weighing the offer.
“Sabi niya sa akin itu-tour niya daw ako sa (UCLA) sa August, ipapakita niya daw po sa akin ‘yung school. Kapag nagustuhan ko na daw po stay na po ako doon and start na daw po ako ng klase ko,” she said.
“Pero pag hindi ko naman daw po nagustuhan balik daw po ako ng Pilipinas and pag-isipan ko daw po if ever gusto ko bumalik,” she said.
NU mentor Edjet Mabbayad, the second youngest coach to win a V-League title next to Charo Soriano, said he only wants what is best for his prized player.
“Wala kasi ako idea sa mga players doon (sa America) pero sa tingin ko naman kaya niya makipag sabayan sa kanila,” said the 26-year old coach. “Pero ang sa akin lang naman is isipin niya ang security niya doon.”
However, the decision won’t come from Santiago alone. The Cavite teen star said she is set to call a family meeting any time soon to talk about the offer.
The towering Jaja is the fourth among five siblings, who all play volleyball.
“Ngayon po kasi 50-50 pa po eh,” she said. “Kasi iba din po ang quality ng education sa ibang bansa, UCLA pa po di naman po basta-basta yan. Pero pag-uusapan po namin buong family kung ano po ang gagawin.”
UCLA is one of the top teams in women's volleyball in the US NCAA, having been national champions in 2011.