April 7, 2011

A Senior Moment With Michael Santos

Senior Michael Santos (MS) closed out his Bronco basketball career just two rebounds shy of his first career double-double with 10 points and eight rebounds in the 76-69 victory at Iona to clinch the CollegeInsider.com Post-Season Tournament.  Santos, who came to Santa Clara as a walk-on his freshman year, was elevated to scholarship his final three years.  The following is an interview he did with www.SantaClaraBroncos.com (SCU) on the heels of his senior year. 

SCU:  We are guessing that winning the CIT would probably be the highlight of your career, take me through that five game stretch and how that was. 

MS:  I think there was a little bit of disappointment at first after Vegas, that we didn't do better in Vegas losing to Saint Mary's for the third time this year. We wanted to make the NCAA Tournament. The coaches told us afterwards we would be playing in the post-season and that we had something to look forward to and keep building toward after that week in Vegas.  Then in that first week, we didn't really know what to expect, we played Northern Arizona.  We were prepared, but mainly we were just having fun that week and glad to still be playing.  We beat them and then we played Air Force the next week.  It was the same thing - we didn't really know what to expect.  We had watched film but obviously we hadn't played these teams before, but we beat them.  And then we got a chance to play either USF or Hawaii and everyone kind of wanted to go to Hawaii but USF won, which gave us a chance to beat them for the first time this year.  Getting ready to play USF - everyone started to get into it – and then going and beating them on their home floor and sending them home was fantastic. Everyone was really excited.

SCU:  How was it preparing for USF, knowing that you had already lost to them two times earlier in the year?

MS:  It wasn't as much preparation, it was just pride as far as we didn't want to lose to them three times in one year.  We knew if we won, we would send them home on their court, which at that point in the season that's all the motivation you need.

SCU:  Both your parents played basketball at USF. What was that like for you – sending them packing for the season - considering your parents went to school there?

MS:  I mean, that was an added benefit but it was more to just not lose to a WCC team to end my career and then to celebrate with the team and the seniors on their floor.  And then to come out into the lobby was something that I'll definitely remember.

SCU:  Can you talk about that?

MS:  It was fun!  It kept our season alive and the coaches were really into it too which was fun.  Coming up to the lobby and running through the fans and just the fact that it was USF.  I think that's more our rival than Gonzaga and Saint Mary's, but it was definitely a good feeling.  We had a lot of fan support considering it was over spring break so that was really cool.  When we had reached that point we were in the final four and we really wanted to get it done.  We went to SMU and played an interesting game, and it was a fun atmosphere to play in.

SCU:  What made the SMU game fun?

MS:  Just being in Texas and playing at SMU. They actually had a pretty-good fan base that was heckling a little bit which was fun.  Kevin Foster had a great game and we were able to pull out a pretty good win.

SCU:  Why was it so fun watching Kevin play in the game?

MS:  Well obviously he always makes a lot of three's, but that was the one game this year that I felt like he was pretty much unconscious as far as every shot he was putting up was going in. He was getting a lot of and-one's on his jump shots so it was just a special offensive performance on his part. 

SCU:  And then we stayed in Dallas to wait for our next opponent and where we would travel.  Can you talk about that Saturday in Dallas and what that was like?

MS:  It turned into the best surprise trip of the year, or of my career really.  We woke up on Saturday morning, expecting to fly back to Santa Clara, but then Coach Keating called us seniors up to his room. He said, "We can either go home today and then either fly to New York or Tennessee on Monday or we can just stay here and have a day and a half in Dallas and go straight from here to wherever." 

We decided to just stay in Dallas, have a day to hang out and spend some time with each other.  Of course, we were all hoping that Iona would win so we could go to New York instead of Tennessee.  Luckily, that worked out. We had a great day in Dallas.  We went on a tour, went and saw Cowboy Stadium, then we went to the JFK Memorial, saw the grassy knoll, went behind the picket fence and just had a hangout day.  Then about seven of us went to the Earthquakes vs. Dallas soccer game, which was really fun being basically the only Earthquakes fans there. 

SCU:  Funny, Santa Clara played SMU on Friday and then the Earthquakes played at Dallas the next night.  Did they have a good crowd?

MS:  Yes, they did actually and I don't think a lot of people liked us there which was pretty fun.  It was Ben, Nate, Troy, Kyle, Niyi and I so that was a lot of fun. We know some of the Earthquakes players just from them being in Leavy a lot. We see them a lot going through the gym and a lot of us know each other.  They are a good bunch.

SCU:  Did they know that you guys were there?

MS:  Yes. After the game, we went down on the rail and we were slapping them fives and telling them good job so that was really fun. Then from there we went to New York and that was really special.  Just the whole city, it was the first time being there for most of the team and obviously going early was a benefit.  We got to go to Time Squares Sunday night and dinner out in the city.  Then the next day we did a bunch of site-seeing in Manhattan.  We went to Ground Zero, which was amazing, Rucker Park, and before that practiced in Madison Square Garden.

SCU: How was that?

MS:  Practicing in Madison Square Garden was crazy.  I mean when you think of basketball, MSG is the Mecca of basketball.  We thought we were going to the Olympic Club to go practice and were driving by and Jesse Pruitt was on the microphone telling us about different landmarks. Then we see Madison Square Garden and everyone is taking pictures from the bus.  We stopped and nobody knew what was going on and Coach Keating gets on the mic and says, "Alright, let's go practice."  We were thinking that maybe the Olympic Club was just around the corner or something and we walk up to it and then we went into MSG and you can't even really describe it.  We walk in, the Knicks court is actually on it, and the banners are up there with all the retired jerseys and then just being on the floor and shooting.

SCU:  Was it hard to concentrate?

MS:  No not really, at that point of the season we were just kind of having fun with each other.  We were goofing around, we got some time before and after to just kind of shoot trip shots, dunk, and take pictures and videos so it was more just a special moment to share.  We took a ton of pictures!  That was by far the best.

SCU: The last practice on Tuesday was the 85th of the season Coach Keating said. Were you nervous at all that maybe you peaked early after having a few days off between SMU and Iona?

MS:  Not really, I didn't really think about that at all.  It definitely was a good practice and knowing that it was our last practice, and every since we beat USF there was a different mood within the team that we wanted to get it done and win since we had got that far.  So we had a good practice, obviously for us seniors it was our last one, but I don't think there was any doubt, we all thought we were going to go into that game and win. 

SCU:  Santa Clara was down 16-8 early in the first half at Iona in the title game and Coach Keating whistled for a timeout.  What did Coach say in the timeout?

MS:  We've had some games that we started slow and they were in their own gym so they might have been a little more hyped up but I don't think there was too much to it.  We just needed to settle down, execute better and handle their pressure, but once we did that it kind of worked out good for us.  Both teams, knowing it was their last game I think we all left it out there; luckily, we came out on top. 

SCU:  What was the last 10 days together with the team like?

MS:  Sometimes you think that we've been together for so long that that you don't want another 10 days together.  But as seniors you want to enjoy it and have that last trip with Dallas and New York combined that would be something to remember and then winning the championship as well. It was our last time doing the whole travel thing, staying in the hotel, film, practice and then the games.  It was special for the seniors to be together and then it benefits when everyone on the team gets along and there's no clicks or anything as well.  I'm personally really close with Ben and Nate, and Troy, but I've been with them for four years and so to have that with them, Time Square, Dallas, Ground Zero and everything we did was special. Everyone gets along, but at that point, all we wanted was to just finish the season out right, with a win.  We were kind of skeptical at first having to play over spring break and all, but after that USF game we just wanted to finish it the right way, with a win.  

SCU:  When did you know you had won the game against Iona?

MS:  We had a sizable lead at half, we were up 10.  But then they came back, and we pulled away again but it was never out of hand and to the point where they couldn't make a come back.  Even with two minutes to go you never want to start celebrating early, but I'd say with 30 seconds to go I remember putting my hands up thinking, "Wow, were going to come out with a win."  Whether it was the CIT or whatever it was still special to come out with that win.  It was a championship and to know that you finished your last college game with a win really puts a good taste in your mouth, you know you left on a high note.  If we would of lost it would have been a much different emotion then how it ended.

SCU:  Everybody seems to be in a good mood right now, explain that?

MS:  Well it has a lot to do with the fact that the coaches are in a good mood and so that usually puts us in a good mood.  It's the spring so for us seniors we don't have much were doing with the team anymore and all four of us are graduating in June.  We still hangout but the team will start up workouts in a couple weeks.

SCU:  Will that be weird not to workout?

MS:  It will definitely be different; I'll have a lot more time this spring and right now only having one class on Tuesday and Thursday.  So I'm enjoying my spring, enjoying kind of being a regular college student right now, so it will be a good 10 weeks. 

SCU:  What's the highlight of your Career?

MS:  From a basketball standpoint, winning those five games and the three on the road would be a highlight.  Obviously the Gonzaga game this year was a huge win, but this was just the accumulation of the season which would be the big highlight.  But for me, all the time that I've spent here with all the players, going back to Brody Angley, Mitch Henke, Calvin Johnson, and John Bryant.  Sounds corny but the time I've spent with them and the time I've spent with the seniors now will be what I remember from my time at Santa Clara.  Personally, when I received a scholarship that was pretty special for me but the five games at the end would be the basketball highlight of my career.

SCU:  You played really well down the stretch and had some key rebounds at USF, SMU and Iona.  How do you feel you played the last couple games?

MS:  My stats obviously aren't that important to me, but to finish knowing that I had a big contribution and us doing well down the stretch made me feel good going out and now it's on to the next part of my journey.

SCU:  What's next?

MS:  I'll graduate in June, and then hopefully this spring I'll be working out with Joe Siara and then a trainer.  Hopefully I'll be able to create some opportunities to keep playing basketball once I graduate. 

SCU:  Your parents supported you so much throughout your career.  Can you talk about them for a minute?

MS:  Their support all along has been what's allowed me to have this opportunity. Freshman year what they sacrificed for me to be here and then since then they have always been close, but still been at all my games and supported me through the good times and the bad.  It was special having them be there in Dallas and in New York.  I know they enjoyed being able to go there. But for me, having them at that last game was special.

SCU: What did your Dad say to you after the game?

MS:  Basically, just congratulations, great job, the typical stuff but obviously I'm very appreciative of their support during my time here.  And my sisters as well, they came to a couple of games to support. Mostly it's been my parents. My dads been my coach since  second grade, so that's just been our bond with basketball.  It's just mostly what we talk about, which is normal.  I'm thankful for all my families support through my four years here. 

SCU:  Anything else?

MS:  With Ben and Nate and the four years we've had here - I couldn't have asked for two better teammates to have as friends and I'm looking to having spring quarter with them and hopefully we can stay in touch. I know we will after we graduate.