May 23, 2013 2:25 AM by Bill Halter

Legend in the Making: Kristina Santiago returns home as champion

Kristina Santiago accomplished everything but winning a championship as a basketball player on the Central Coast. In her first season as a pro, Santiago won two titles. The former Righetti Warrior and Cal Poly Mustang had a great season with the Dunav Blue Fairies of the Bulgarian League.

Santiago led her team to a League title as well as a Bulgarian Cup championship (a midseason tournament). "I could not have asked for a better experience. Just getting to live in a foreign country and especially a country like Bulgaria which is not a place I had ever heard about really. I would have never went there on my own" said Santiago.

The two-time Big West player of the year with Cal Poly won the regular season and postseason Most Valuable Player awards. She led the Bulgarian League in scoring during the regular season with a 21.6 points per game average. Including the playoffs, Santiago averaged 23.1 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2 steals. " It's very competitive, it's very cut throat. You're playing to get money, to survive so these girls are all pushing for your spot" said Santiago in talking about the difference between pro basketball and college.

Santiago says she and her teammates were treated like celebrities. "Especially our town because we don't have a men's team so we were a really big deal in our town. Our games sold out almost every single night. Our fans just treated us amazing, they made sure we were taken care of."

Santiago put on some muscle as basketball became a full-time job for her but the accomplishments in Bulgaria didn't lead to a spot in the WNBA. "I'm not really going to go and push to do the WNBA thing. I think this European League is going to be good for me. For my personality and my style it's just really fun for me to get out there and experience these cultures."

Santiago doesn't know where in Europe she'll play next year but plans to move on from the Bulgarian League.



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