What makes Jaja Santiago such a talent?

Friday, 13 Oct 2017
Bernard Waje - Writer - @jhaybernard

Thai club Bangkok Glass surprised the volleyball world when they tapped Jaja Santiago to reinforce them for their upcoming club league. Although Santiago declined their amazing offer, it opened the eyes of volleyball fans to Santiago’s world class potential. But what makes the Filipina skipper such a talent? Let’s break it down.

Physicality & skills

Towering height

Height is not typically the Filipinos greatest asset when it comes to sports, so tall players with remarkable skills can easily dominate in the Philippines. Santiago is well known for her towering height together with her older sister Dindin Santiago-Manabat. At 6 foot 5, Jaja Santiago is the tallest player in the Philippine National team and one of the tallest players at the recent South East Asian Games, an indication of just how dominant her physicality can be.

Versatility

Aside from her remarkable height, versatility is what will really open doors for Santiago on the international stage. Jaja can now play three positions; middle blocker, outside hitter
and opposite spiker, which makes her appealable for multiple roles recruited for by international clubs.

Santiago played as a middle blocker from high-school through her collegiate career. Her height made her an easy pick to play & excel in the middle position and she remains the country’s premiere Middle blocker in international competitions.

Coach Moro Branislav of Foton Tornadoes started introducing Jaja to the opposite position last year in the Philippine Super Liga and she went onto bag the Best Opposite Spiker award the following year.

2017 saw Santiago transition to another position during her stint with the Philippine national team. She played the outside spiker position, side by side with Alyssa Valdez during their AVC and SEA Games campaign, where she also led the team in scoring.

Two way player

Jaja Santiago might be the most efficient player Philippine volleyball has ever seen. She has 5 Best Attacker awards in her belt, impressing from high school through to her exploits in the PSL and PVL. She averaged 42.58 percent in attack efficiency last season in the UAAP which she also took the Best Scorer award.

But offense is not Santiago’s only weapon; she’s also a defensive threat at the net. You can’t be a 5 time Best Middle Blocker winner without amazing blocking skills and her performance in UAAP 79 where she averaged 0.86 blocks per set let to the Best Blocker award.

The National University’s Queen Bulldog has also been improving her floor defense. Because of her back row attacks, she’s not being subbed out as other offensive options maybe, giving her the opportunity to receive and dig more.

Potential and comparisons

At just 21 years old, Santiago established her name on Philippine volleyball, and this young star is not done reaching her full potential. With her height and skills, she has the potential to be the next Kim Yeon-koung or Zhu Ting. Santiago shares the same height and physique with these world known talents and all she needs is international exposure to be recognized.

Jaja proved she’s on par with these great talents when she scored 10 points against Kim Yeon-koung in the AVC Women’s Championships where the Philippines gave Korea a grueling match.

Santiago is yet to master her timing and maximize her vertical leap, but when she does, she’s definitely on the route to being a world class player.

Adding it up

Santiago is arguably the Philippine’s best player today, and she’s definitely the future of volleyball in the country. She’s only just beginning and has a lot of opportunities ahead of
her to prove her potential. With her hardworking mantra and humble attitude, there’s no way but up for this young talent.

We can’t wait to see her dominate in the international stage and bring the country pride and glory.