National University almost had a brand new Santiago donning the blue and gold.
Only, it wasn't in volleyball, but in basketball.
And only, it wasn't meant to be.
Lenard Santiago, the younger brother of volleyball towers Dindin and Jaja, is now playing for Colegio de San Juan de Letran - playing basketball, that is.
"Galing akong Nueva Ecija then nung namatay yung father namin, kinuha ako ng mga ate ko and napunta ako sa Manila," he shared after the Squires season-opener last Monday. "Una akong nag-try sa NU, pero 'di ako nakuha kaya dinala nila ako sa Letran."
Santiago worked on his game with the Intramuros-based squad's Team B for one year before making his big league debut last year in the NCAA.
Now, he is playing out his last year in the Juniors.
Of course, the 18-year-old shared that often, he gets asked why he's playing on the hardwood instead of the taraflex. "Kung tinatanong ako ng mga ate ko or ng ibang tao ba't ako nag-basketball, dun kasi ako lumaki sa probinsya at basketball ang naging laro ko," he said.
That doesn't mean, however, that he does not play the sport his sisters made a name for themselves in. "Naglalaro rin po ako ng volleyball. Actually, kinuha nga rin po ako ng coach ng Letran so dual events po ako (sa NCAA 95)," he said.
He then continued, "Second choice ko pa rin naman yung volleyball. Kung 'di po ako mag-succeed sa basketball, e 'di mag-volleyball po ako."
Without a doubt, getting to play two sports does nothing but make Santiago a more complete athlete. "Sa basketball, nakakatulong yung volleyball kasi napapalakas yung legs ko at nagiging matalas ang utak ko sa pagbabasa ng tao," he shared.
He then continued, "Sa volleyball naman, nakakatulong ang basketball sa bilis at kung paano magbasa ng blockings."
At the same time, though, the 6-foot forward in basketball and open spiker in volleyball feels the heavier weight of the last name he carries on his back. "Minsan, may pressure po talaga dahil yung mga ate ko, may malaking pangalan sa volleyball," he said.
Fortunately for him, his sisters are nothing but supportive of him. "Lagi nilang sinasabi sa akin, dapat daw mas nagfo-focus nga ako sa basketball kung yun ang gusto ko," he said.
He then continued, "Pero okay lang din naman kasi may naitutulong sa akin ang volleyball at kaya ko namang i-balance."
In Lenard, the Santiagos have a new tower rising in a different sport and a different school.
And in the same way that Dindin and Jaja remain fixtures in the higher levels of volleyball, their younger brother hopes to do the same in basketball. "Basketball po ang unang choice ko laruin and gusto ko makapunta sa PBA in the future. Sana po," he said.
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