Sans Mbala, Santillan embracing bigger role for La Salle
La Salle forward Santi Santillan is one of the players touted to fill the void left by two-time UAAP MVP Ben Mbala coming into Season 81.
Santillan showed he has what it takes to be the Green Archers’ go-to guy he as he led his team with 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the field, including a 3-of-5 clip from beyond the arc and 10 rebounds, on Sunday.
“I’ve embraced my new role with the team,” Santillan said in Filipino on stepping up in the absence of Mbala.
“To those who are expecting more of me with the departure of Ben, I will do whatever I can.”
His impressive performance, however, still was not enough to help La Salle open its campaign on a winning note.
“We fell short on defense. FEU also made a lot of contribution while we were not able to contribute in the end-game,” Santillan rued as the Tamarraws, banking on a spectacular fourth quarter run, came away with a 68-61 win.
But more than the offensive load expected of him, Santillan just wants to continue to learn as the tournament progresses.
Playing in his final year, Santillan said he wants to lead his team, which is composed mostly of rookies.
“It’s just the first game so we just need to go on even though we lost. We learned a lot from this game and I want to continue leading our rookies,” he said.
Santillan’s efforts certainly didn’t go unnoticed with his head coach Louie Gonzalez commending his play.
“He (Santillan) really plays hard and with effort,” Gonzalez lauded.
“My trust in him to be one of the players to close out games for us is there. I will keep looking for him.”