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Geneva boys basketball's Santos opts for prep school

The prospect of two Division I talents playing alongside one another for each of the next two seasons amped up expectations for a Geneva boys basketball program that has not won an IHSA regional since the 1985-86 season.

Now the Vikings must seek to continue the program’s momentum with their star power cut in half.

Junior wing KJ Santos will transfer from Geneva to Vermont Academy, a prep school located in Saxtons River, Vt. The move was announced by Santos’ AAU program, the Illinois Stars, Sunday night.

The 6-foot-7 Santos spent most of last year on Geneva’s sophomore team but was called up to varsity late in the regular season. He is regarded as a high-end shooter, especially given his size, and drained consecutive 3-pointers in the second quarter of Geneva’s regional semifinal upset victory against Hinsdale Central.

Santos played with Geneva’s summer team in June, and his recruiting stock sizzled after strong play with the Illinois Stars in July.

He holds Division I scholarship offers from Xavier, VCU, DePaul, Illinois-Chicago, Army and Fairfield.

Vikings junior forward Nate Navigato, the team’s leading scorer last year, also has an offer from UIC.

“I can’t say it was a complete surprise,” Geneva coach Phil Ralston said of Santos transferring. “It was a rumor that had kind of been going on the entire summer but his family never communicated anything with me so I wasn’t sure how much stock to really put into it. If this turns out to be the case that he’s going out to Vermont, we certainly wish him nothing but the best and hope it works out for him.”

Santos’ older sister, Ashley, graduated from Geneva and currently plays college basketball at Marquette, while another older sister, Sidney, is a Geneva senior and starter for the VIkings’ girls basketball team.

Santos was flying home Monday from a trip to play with Puerto Rico’s youth national team and could not be reached for comment. 

The Illinois Stars’ announcement, made via Twitter, indicated Santos also would re-classify from a class of 2015 recruit to class of 2016. Another Illinois Stars AAU product, 7-1 center Tyler Jackson, also transferred to Vermont Academy for this school year.

Ralston said he maintains high hopes this winter for Geneva, which is coming off a 21-9 season.

“We have a bunch of really nice young men who worked really hard over the summer, many of whom we felt improved their skill sets,” Ralston said. “I still feel like we’re going to have a pretty good team this next year.”

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