Baldwin impressed with ‘spectacular’ La Salle big man Santillan
Tab Baldwin, who has one of the brightest basketball minds in the international level, knows talent when he sees one.
And he sees a lot of it in La Salle big man Santi Santillan, who earned high praise from the Ateneo coach.
Baldwin said what stands out the most from Santillan is his “character” which was in full display during a preseason game between the Blue Eagles and the Green Archers.
“Nobody is going to talk about Santi as the most talented player, but you talk about gutsy, you talk about clever. Watch him and his offensive rebounding, he’s spectacular because he moves to where the ball is gonna rebound. He has tremendous feel,” Baldwin marveled after Ateneo outlasted La Salle, 81-75, in overtime to remain undefeated at 9-0 in the Filoil Preseason Cup.
Baldwin couldn’t stop raving about Santillan and he had every reason to after the former University of Visayas standout punished Ateneo with a game-high 19 points that went with nine rebounds in 33 minutes.
“We did a terrible job of keeping contact and body on body and when you don’t do that with him, he’s gonna slaughter you,” he said. “And then, he’s obviously mastered this one hand push shot and it’s unorthodox to say the least so the defense won’t see it coming and that’s another thing to defend Santi this year. You’re going to have to be exceptionally aware or else he’s gonna hurt you because he’s never gonna take a possession of much less a game.”
Santillan also earned the respect of Ateneo guard Thirdy Ravena, who, like Baldwin was in awe of his rise.
“I was telling him earlier, he improved a lot. He’s a big help to their team and for me, he’s the X-factor,” Ravena, who had a team-high 17 points, said.
“The totality of what he brings doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. The hustle, he just brings the intangibles.”
Santillan said he did not expect to hear the kind words from Baldwin.
“I was surprised because it was something I did not expect especially coming from a champion coach like him,” he said in Filipino.
Baldwin approached Santillan after the final buzzer sounded.
“I said to him after the game, ‘You’re quickly becoming my favorite player in the Philippines.’ So it’s true, it’s honest and I think it’s up to my guys to make sure I don’t have that opinion of him.”
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