Gilas U16 may have fallen short of qualifying for the Worlds, but there are a lot of things to be excited about with this amazing group of kids. Aside from the recent version of this team that had the likes of Rayven Cortez and Kai Sotto, this team was one of the most vertically challenged team in the tournament with wingman Alexander Konov as their tallest player at 6’7.
Even with that, this Gilas U16 came into this tournament as one of the most highly anticipated teams owing mostly to the fact that this will be Fil-am sensation Caelum Harris’ debut at the international stage. He delivered and gave all of us something to be excited about in the next decade, for sure.
At the same time, there was a gem that did not generate quite the same fanfare, but showed enough to where he just might have the best professional career out of anyone here 10 years from now, and his name is Jacob Bayla.
Though listed as a power forward, Bayla is anything but and looks more like he will develop more into a two-way combo guard in the mold of former NBA All-Star Eddie Jones. UAAP and NCAA schools are already salivating at the prospect of getting him and it’s easy to see why.
Jacob hasn’t even figured out what type of player he will be. But one thing is for sure, he is an ultra-competitor that won’t back down to anyone. He is great at reading the passing lanes and has cat quick reflexes to disrupt the best perimeter player of the other team and is an also an excellent help defender.
He led the Philippines in steals in the group stages, with a 2.3 per game average and a high of 6 against Kazakhstan. Jacob is also an efficient scorer shooting at a 53.8% clip and a decent 33% from three. He has excellent form and a high release, so he will only improve as he gets stronger and more repetition.
Jacob is a relentless slasher but is not reckless, makes good reads and knows how to finish at the rim with contact. His in-between game is also very promising and knows how to put defenders behind his hips as he weaves to the basket, navigating through screens and defenders.
An adequate ball-handler and can be an emergency point guard when needed. Jacob has a high basketball IQ and is easy to play with. He also has a good nose for the ball and can get you between 5 to 8 rebounds per game, which is above average for a perimeter player.
Jacob’s ceiling will be determined on how he will grow into his frame. He needs to get a lot stronger, but who does not need to at 16 years old?
His handles are also the part of his game that limits his impact at this stage. He is not a bad ball-handler, he’s actually crafty. But as a primary ball handler, he is not as aggressive when he plays the two because in his effort to set his teammates up; he is more cautious when his strength is when he’s an attacker. With better handles, he can dribble up facing up once he enters the mid-court, making it easier to go downhill from there.
Jacob also needs to develop a couple of go-to moves to create his shot. He does not have any problems scoring, but at times it looks like he makes it up as he goes along. Once he develops a couple of them, like a euro-step where he can finish off of both hands, he will jump from a 12 ppg scorer to an 18 to 22 ppg go-to-guy type.
There aren’t any glaring holes in Jacob’s game and there are several strengths that can make him an elite talent that might make him good enough to play in Europe as a best-case scenario and Japan, Korea and China if a career in Europe does not pan out.
If he can get stronger and stay healthy while maintaining or even improving his speed and agility, he will be playing pro ball oversees at best and a 10-year PBA star as a floor.