Sergio Santiago could have gotten by on just being a scorer.
He wanted more, so he put in the work.
Santiago is a sophomore on the Franklin Towne Charter High School basketball team and through his sharp shooting, he worked his way into the rotation during his freshman year.
He probably would have been a starter this year at shooting guard, but the team needed someone to run the offense. That meant sacrificing a little scoring because he would be responsible for getting his teammates involved.
He was asked to make the switch, and it took no time for him to make a decision.
“I like scoring, but I love (playing point guard),” said Santiago, a Lawndale resident. “It’s a lot like being the quarterback on the court, you have to lead the team, so I love it. I was really happy when they asked me to move.
“I’m still able to shoot and score off the dribble, but my first goal is to get everyone else involved. It helps that I’m able to shoot, and it also helps that my teammates are good.”
Santiago didn’t take long to get used to his new position.
He’s still the top scorer on his team, averaging better than 12 points a game for the Warriors, but he’s also found his touch setting the table for his teammates, averaging three assists per game.
Santiago is still finding his way, and he attributes the success he’s enjoyed thus far to being a product of his surrounding cast.
“Last year, we were good, but we’re playing a lot better this year,” Santiago said. “And we only have two seniors on this team. They’re really good leaders and players, but it’s good because we should all be together for a while.
“Last year when I was starting out, we had good seniors, good upperclassmen who helped me. I’m trying to do that this year with our younger guys. I’m just a sophomore, but because I’ve played a little (at Franklin Towne), I’m able to help some people when they need it.”
The Warriors might be improved, but they still have work to do.
They’ve been in a lot of games, but so far they’ve won just two games. Losing isn’t fun, but for Santiago, he is having a good time because he sees the improvement in every player, and more importantly, in the team.
“We have freshmen who are playing and that’s hard to start right in and play varsity,” Santiago said. “We are growing together. They’re getting better and so are the guys who played before. I’m getting better every day, and the team is getting better. Our coach (Nick Ruggieri) has us getting better.”
Ruggieri might be Santiago’s current coach, but he also credits his first coach, his dad.
Santiago gets his size and strength from his dad, who played football and basketball at Cardinal Dougherty. But he can credit his fancy footwork to his mom, a former competitive dancer.
“My dad was my first coach and he’s always pushed me to get better and do as much as I can,” Santiago said. “When I was younger, I tried baseball and didn’t like it, so I started playing basketball and my dad helped me. Now he’s helping me and making sure I take care of the basketball.
“And my mom is very supportive. She comes to all the games. She was a professional in ballet, so she taught me how to build up my core. I’m really lucky to have so many people helping me.”
He may have help, but he’s putting in the work.
When he’s not playing basketball, Santiago is doing other things at the school, including student government and putting in the work in the classroom, where he gets straight A’s.
He takes more pride in his high test scores than he does his high scoring average.
“I’m a student-athlete and I know that’s why I go to school,” Santiago said. “I take pride in being a student-athlete. I do pretty well in school. I keep them up for my parents and because I want to go to college.”
But before college, he has two and a half basketball seasons at Franklin Towne to make his mark.
Obviously, it won’t be easy to win a Public League championship with all of the great teams in the league.
That would be a dream, but he has a more modest goal.
“I just want to evolve as a team and get better as a team,” Santiago said. “And we’re doing that. I’m proud of how we’re doing. I know it’s hard, but we’re trying to be patient. And if we keep getting better as a team, we can do a lot.”
Sounds like Santiago gets the point.
And just as important, Franklin Towne has its point guard.