NEW BRITAIN - A gladiator is defined as a man trained to fight with weapons against other men or wild animals in an arena. But for Francisco Santiago, a Gladiator represents himself.
He may not be trained to fight with weapons, but he is trained to battle on the basketball court.
Santiago has been one of the Gladiators’ top offensive threats this season, averaging around 22 points per game, and his commitment to the game has not gone unnoticed.
“He’s an extremely hard worker,” Goodwin Tech head coach Reuben Charles said. “He has truly improved every year. But one thing that I have really noticed in his game from freshman year to senior year is he truly understands the game.”
Santiago is always the first one to get to practice and the last one to leave. He has put in numerous amounts of hours outside of practice to perfect his own game. A perfect example came during the Gladiators’ CTC semifinals loss against Wilcox Tech. Santiago did all that he could, scoring 29 of the team’s 48 points.
Now that the league tournament over, Goodwin Tech has the Division IV state tournament next, where it will be the fourth seed after finishing the regular season 17-3.
The Gladiators earned a first-round bye and will host No. 13 Valley Regional (14-7) tonight at 7 p.m. in the second round. Valley Regional beat Windham 67-60 in the first round Tuesday night.
“This season has been going really good for us,” Santiago said. “It has definitely been a lot better than the years before. I think that’s because we’re all playing as a team and sharing the ball.”
Santiago and his teammates have high expectations heading into the state tournament.
“Our final goal is to end high school with a state championship ring,” Santiago said.
The Gladiators have averaged 66.3 points per game this season, going over the 70-point mark nine times.
Santiago isn’t the only scoring threat on the Gladiators, as Josh Peeples and Luis Aguiar have starred as well.
“It’s such a pleasure to have three kids that can put the basketball in the bucket,” Goodwin Tech assistant basketball coach Joe Freundlich said. “Having three kids that can score at will, share the ball. It’s never about each one of them as individuals, it’s about what can we do as a team. It’s such a treat being able to watch it and being a part of it.”
With one goal in mind, they can all rely on each other to get the job done.
“My teammates give me the ball and the shots just fall,” Santiago said. “We play really well together. The team has had good defense which leads to fast breaks and easy baskets.”
Off the court, Santiago is a straight-A student. Academics mean a lot to him, and throughout his four years at E.C. Goodwin, he has not received a grade under 80.
“The only way we are able to maintain success is to rely on each other and [Santiago] does that,” Freundlich said. “To develop that sense of team and togetherness, that’s one of the most substantial growths I have seen while being here.”
Like many other seniors, Santiago has been looking at a handful of colleges, but with basketball in mind.
There have been a number of schools in consideration, including Newbury College, Western New England University, Keuka College and Drexel University. But as of late, Santiago’s top choice is Hunter College.
But before Santiago moves on to the next level, he has one big goal left to achieve at Goodwin Tech. It begins tonight for the Gladiators.
Shelby Iava can be reached at (806) 801-5096 or email@example.com