MANILA, Philippines – Leonard "Santi" Santillan has declared on Tuesday evening, October 1, his intention to remain with Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3x3 for the second season of the league.
With this, the 6-foot-5 bruiser who is projected to be a top 5 pick in the upcoming 2019 PBA Rookie Draft has withdrawn his name from this year's rookie class.
Besides his family, one of the big reasons the Lapu-Lapu City native jumped to this decision was his good friend Alvin Pasaol, who also won't join the draft this year to chase the Philippines' 3x3 Olympic dream.
"'Yung mga taong nasa paligid ko, 'yung family ko sinabihan ko na may offer galing sa Chooks. Pumayag naman sila pati mama ko na hindi muna ko magpa-draft," Santillan said.
"Si Alvin lagi ko ring kasama, tapos lagi niya kong sinasabihan na para sa bayan naman ito eh."
(I told the people around me and my family that there's an offer from Chooks. They agreed, including my mom, that I don't join the draft yet. I'm always with Alvin too, and he would always tells me that this is for the country.)
Coming off a two-year stint with La Salle, Santillan completed his D-League residency early this year after playing for Marinerong Pilipino and Go for Gold later on.
During that time, he also played for the Wilkins-Balanga Pure in the country's first league dedicated to 3x3 basketball.
In Chooks 3x3, he was able to play in numerous FIBA 3x3 World Tours and Challengers. Wanting to experience more of those led him to stay for one more year.
"Siyempre, kapag naglalaro ka sa 3x3, may chance ka na makalaban 'yung best of the best sa ibang bansa kaya grabe 'yung commitment ko dito," said the top under-23 3x3 player in the country, who is also ranked as the country's third-best player.
(Of course, if you're playing 3x3, you have a chacce to battle the best of the best in the world, which is why I have a strong commitment here.)
Like Pasaol, Santillan is eligible to represent the Philippines in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic debut of 3x3 basketball if ever the country qualifies and wins a spot in the Olympic Qualifying Tournaments. – Rappler.com