TODAY’S SPOTLIGHT PLAYER IS NISANI SANTIAGO OF GIL ST BERNARD. I have known her since she was in diapers. Her sister played Division one basketball at Fairfield U and Nisani is the newer, much better version of her big sister. When she was a baby, she would be rolled in to NBS in a carriage to watch her older sister. When she got older, she would stand on the sidelines dribbling. You didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to know, she would be special one day. But the road to greatness has come with many bumps along the way. These days Nisani is back and on smooth ground and fulfilling her promise.
Four years ago Nisani Santiago was considered one of the best guards Point Guards, entering the 2019 class. She had all the tools great point guards need to be successful. She had next level quickness, a nasty handle and was a deadly shooter with a next level IQ. They was only one question, what level of D1 basketball would she play. She was not physically big, so the high majors would have to overlook her size and realize she was that rare small guard that could play with the big girls. She decided to attend Gil St. Bernard High School and play for Arron Gratch, the current Asst. Coach at NJIT. She had a breakout freshman year under Coach Gratch, averaging 10 points and 3 assists on one of the best teams in New Jersey. Its seemed everything for Nisani was going just as everyone predicted.
Nisani has been a member of Rich Leary’s New Jersey Demons program for just about the time she started playing basketball. The US HOOPS program is the home of many great players. It where Nisani does the bulk of her training, where her brother is an elite trainer. The demons are a tight group and play some of the best competition offered on the AAU circuit. It was clear Nisani, has had everything a player needs to develop. Top notch training, an elite AAU team and she played for one of the best High School coaches and teams in the state. It looked like Santiago had everything a great high school player could ask for…that was until all the injuries started.
NBS 2015 NISANI SANTIAGO Highlights https://t.co/2VuEPxQ6an via @YouTube What funny about this highlight? 5 of the girls in this video are currently playing D1 basketball and guess who was the best player at NBS 3 years ago…Tape don't lie
— ellonya Tiny Green (@CoachTinyGreen) June 22, 2018
It was at NBS camp with some of the best upper classmen around, that I started think Santiago would one day play at the highest level of college basketball; despite her size. She was just a freshman and came to the camp and put on a show for 5 days. She was so impressive in every area of the game, you could not think she would be anything but a star. There was very little she couldn’t do on a basketball court. But what really impressed me was that she was dominating players moving on to the D1 level and she was just finishing her freshman year. I started to wonder if she was the best point guard in the 2019 class.
Nobody could have predicted what happened to Nisani Santiago in the last 2 years. It’s feels like something out of the twilight zone. Her Sophomore year started out with her major bang. Santiago left off when she finished her finished her Freshman year. She averaged 14 points and 4 assists in her first 4 games.. But then she injured her back and was expected to miss a few games. Instead she missed most of the season. She did return in time to drop 28 points and 5 dimes on Nationally ranked Ossining. She dropped 16 points 5 dimes and 3 steals on TOC state champ Franklin. But she only played 8 games the entire year. It was a shock, not just her, but to everyone around her, when things got worse and she missed the entire AAU season. It seemed as if one of the best young players in New Jersey, just fell off the map. This was a player receiving letters and coaches asking about her on a regular bias, who now was mostly forgotten. It was strange watching players she destroyed getting so much attention and recruitment and she was now a ghost. It was strange watching kids she trained with and crushed getting D1 scholarships and offers. It had to make her think, how everything could go so wrong so quickly. When I called her last summer to attend Academic Elite, she told me she was still not ready and I that’s when I got really concerned for her future.
— ellonya Tiny Green (@CoachTinyGreen) June 22, 2018
This pass season she started the season on a minutes restriction. She started the first 3 games of the season averaging about 8 points a game in 15 mins. Then the doctors cleared her and she went off… She had 25 points against Cathedral of Boston. Then went on to have a solid junior season. Towards the end of the season, she because a terror and a walking scoring and dime dropping machine. But Gil Bernard had injuries and was not the powerhouse it should have been. The team at times did not have enough players to practice and only 6 players at games at times. It was another crazy example, of how things have been for Santiago the past 2 years.
Nisani is now healthy again, she regained that explosiveness and confidence that caused her some much pain and heartache. The sweet jumper and magical vision in transition is back. Her ability to keep opponents in front of is back. She has fighting the perception of being injured and knew that people would talk. But right now she is cooking again. There is zero question, she will take her rightful place among the best point guards in New Jersey. It’s just this time around she is starting from the bottom again. She won’t have the hype that goes along with being one of the players in the state. She’ll have to prove all over again that she is special…that will be the easy part….NISANI SANTIAGO knows that she is among the best. Now she on a mission to remind everyone…SHE IS ONE OF THE BEST…. and I know for a fact she is one of the best PERIOD…. that never changed for me….. TINY GREEN