Italian coach Fabio Menta says Jaja Santiago is 'Philippine volleyball's great hope'
Italian coach Fabio Merta says Jaja Santiago is full of potential. Dante Peralta

NEWLY appointed Foton Pilipinas coach Fabio Menta is confident Jaja Santiago has the biggest chance among Filipino volleyball players to make a splash in international competition.

The FIVB international volleyball instructor, who was tapped by the Foton management to call the shots in the Asian Club Women’s Championship on September 3-11, said the 6-foot-5 middle blocker has what it takes to hold her own against foreign rivals.

The 54-year old season mentor has been in the country for a week now and admitted it was Santiago who has caught his attention because of her ability, size and talent.

“Jaja is (Philippine volleyball’s) great hope,” said Menta in a heartbeat on Thursday night during the Foton Pilipinas team presentation. “Jaja is absolutely a wonderful talent. The Philippines should be very proud for the opportunity to have Jaja.”

Santiago declined a chance to try out for the UCLA Bruins back in 2013 but Menta, who has traveled around the world handling top volleyball teams, believes the 6-5 star can make it to the international stage.

“I think Jaja has the skills and the talent, she has the height for sure,” he said. “She has the body to be in the international level.”

[See Here's why Jaja Santiago turned down offer to try out for UCLA Bruins]

Although he has been impressed with the 20-year old National University star, Menta also admitted that Santiago’s full potential has yet to be tapped.

“I think she could do that in probably a year because she has a lot of work to do with the techniques like everybody else and Jaja included,” he said.

“She’s also young and she’s also developing, So Jaja’s gonna have to work hard on completing the technical package and try to be, I would say, the best player in the Philippines,” he added.

“We need to make Jaja, like some other players that we have, that can become important in the area and in the continent,” said Menta.

Given a year of intense training, Santiago is bound to go places, he predicted.

“I think after a year we can see Jaja be requested by other countries (to play for them),” Merta said.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @meilinlozada