Hundreds of basketball players have laced up their kicks and stepped out on the court for the Greenfield Hustlin’ Hawks basketball team.
Only two have done what senior guard Ricky Santiago is on the verge of doing.
With 18 points in a 86-60 loss to Brown Deer on Friday, Santiago moved into third place on the school’s all-time leading scorers list. He now is just 11 points shy of 1,000 in his career and could reach the mark when the Hawks host crosstown rival Whitnall at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
“It’s honestly shocking,” said Santiago, whose 989 career points place him behind only Pete Binelas’s school-record 1,250 and Nick Smith’s 1,156.
“I didn’t really plan to do this. It wasn’t a goal I set until this year when I noticed I was really close to it. It’s one of those big achievements. To be only one of only three people to score 1,000 is pretty amazing.”
Santiago, in his fourth season on the varsity, entered the season 262 points shy of the elite plateau. He made an immediate splash as a freshman for coach Jim Nowak before elevating his game to a new level and averaging more than 15 points per game as a sophomore under interim head coach Ed Mermolia.
Santiago’s game leveled off a bit as a junior under then first-year coach Jack Miller, but he’s leading the team in scoring again as a senior with 248 points in 19 games (13 per game).
Not bad for a guard who stands in at about 5 feet 9 inches.
“It says a lot about him that he’s been able to play varsity ball for four years at his size,” Miller said. “It’s not that he’s extremely small, but for guards today, he is small. But his athleticism, strength and explosiveness really help him out. He compacts a lot of energy into that body.”
“Ricky is certainly a different player (than Binelas and Smith, both forwards),” Miller added. “But he’s done a nice job adjusting over his career to different coaches and different personnel. He loves basketball. And he does a lot of work in the offseason. He’s really committed.”
Santiago, a strong ball-handler who can beat defenses by attacking the rim or by knocking down mid-range shots, admitted playing for three different head coaches in four seasons has been challenging, as has the team’s struggles to win games. In his first three seasons, Greenfield was a combined 16-55.
This winter, the Hawks enter their final regular season game Tuesday with a 10-11 mark.
“It’s great to (have team success) my senior year,” Santiago said. “It was hard on me. I put a lot of work in and came out with losses. But I’m glad we still pushed through it and have above a winning record now.”
Santiago counts his career-high 34 points in a double-overtime win over New Berlin West earlier this year and a game in which he scored his team’s first 15 points against St. Francis his sophomore campaign among his career highlights. And he’s proud to be entering an elite class of 1,000-point scorers.
“I didn’t think I’d score 1,000 when I was a freshman,” Santiago said. “I knew I’d be memorable in a way. Making varsity as a freshman, that’s a big achievement. Not a lot of kids can say that. Hitting 1,000, that’s going to be another good thing to say and pass along to future kids.”