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Geneva boys basketball's Santos to cap eventful week with trip

KJ Santos didn’t have much time to savor a spectacular 24 hours in his college basketball recruitment.

The Geneva junior had bags to pack.

Santos is set to depart for Puerto Rico today to compete in international games with Puerto Rico’s 17U junior national team, just a couple days after the 6-foot-7 wing collected attention-grabbing scholarship offers on consecutive days.

On Tuesday, Santos heard from one of the most well-known coaches in college basketball, VCU’s Shaka Smart. Smart offered Santos a scholarship to play for the Rams.

“It was so mind-blowing,” Santos said. “I was so excited to speak to him. I was like really nervous. I wasn’t expecting that at all.”

The next day, Wednesday, more positive reinforcement of Santos’ play during the July AAU period arrived in the form of a scholarship offer from Xavier.

Xavier recently moved from the Atlantic 10 Conference – which VCU remains part of – to the reconfigured Big East Conference. The Big East also includes DePaul, which previously offered Santos a scholarship, as did Illinois-Chicago and Fairfield.

Santos, 16, was impressive while playing national tournaments last month with the Illinois Stars AAU program.

The lanky sniper was called up to Geneva’s varsity late last season after spending much of the winter with the sophomores.

His father, Joe Santos, said his son’s seemingly rapid ascent actually has been a long time in the making. Sprouting to 6-7 with the skill set to play the 1, 2 and 3 spots certainly helped, and Joe Santos said his son also has refined his shooting release over the years.

“When he jumps and then he has that high point of release, I don’t see too many people blocking that shot, man,” said Joe Santos, who played basketball professionally in his native Puerto Rico in the 1980s. “It’s just a smooth shot. It’s something because he made the change early enough that, as he now has grown into a young man, his mechanics are sound.”

Santos’ older sisters, Ashley and Sidney, played for Puerto Rico’s women’s program in the FIBA Americas U18 Championships in summer 2010. Ashley Santos now plays collegiately at Marquette, while Sidney, a Geneva senior, is focusing on her own college recruitment this summer.

Santos is making his first trip to Puerto Rico and will be with the team for 17 days, during which Puerto Rico will compete against countries such as Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica and others in the region.

If Santos plays well this summer, competing with Puerto Rico’s 17U team next year in the World Championships in France could be a possibility.

“I like their style,” Santos said of basketball in Puerto Rico. “They like to run and push the ball, and I like that style of play.”

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