Battling back for YSU

Pens’ guard Santiago recovering from injury

YSU senior point guard Francisco Santiago works out on a stationary bicycle recently at the Beeghly Center. Santiago is recovering from a hyper-extended knee which held him out of the summer workouts. He is now participating in fall workouts and is full-go with the brace he'll wear throughout the upcoming season.

YOUNGSTOWN — Francisco Santiago looked at his bruised, hyper-extended knee.

The bruising and swelling were there on his right leg as he rode a stationary bike that blew massive amounts of wind. The senior Youngstown State University point guard felt the resistance and pedaled harder during the summer.

At first, when he knew the injury wasn’t just a bruise, he became very sullen. That soon passed.

His father, Francisco Rios, who is his bedrock of support, constantly reminds him of an Allen Iverson quote, “I went through what I went through because God said go through it.”

Santiago, a 6-foot-1, 160-pound senior, said YSU trainer Todd Burkey has helped him through his process.

Burkey said the knee is functional and he’s been doing strengthening work with Santiago. Burkey added that Santiago is advancing into basketball very quickly.

Santiago, who is wearing a black knee brace on that right appendage, didn’t care to sit out of summer workouts. The fall workouts started a couple of weeks ago.

He just wanted to get out on the floor before the brace arrived in the middle of last week, and Santiago finally was able to get out on the floor.

Santiago said he is able to go full speed with the knee.

In YSU’s new system where the Penguins plan to play a full-court tempo offensively and defensively, this bit of information is crucial.

“I’m fine with running and going in a straight line. The cutting and stopping is where I have to get confidence,” Santiago said. “At first it was hard to deal with, I knew I wanted to be out there this summer. I’d rather it be the summer than be between November and March. It was frustrating to deal with it during the summer.”

Not being out there in the summer hurt Santiago.

“I know it’s killing him,” Burkey said. “I get messages from him every day, ‘Where are we at?’ He’ll do well.”

YSU coach Jerrod Calhoun said Santiago is in good hands with Burkey, but emphasized he didn’t want his main ball handler to rush the progress.

“We have to be very careful with him,” Calhoun said.

Santiago appreciates the help he’s had, especially from his roommate and YSU shooting guard Cameron Morse.

Santiago said Morse always has his best interest and the two work out constantly. Sometimes the two of them go back in the gym play catch and shoot until they make 300 apiece, along with some stationary ball handling.

He wanted to stay active throughout this process.

“It was more difficult when it happened,” he said prior to getting the brace. “I’m not harping on it now, thinking about it. I’m not dwelling on it. I’m ready to take this challenge head on and get through it.

“I’m regular right now. I’m not emotionally unstable or anything. I’m taking it head on. I’m looking to get back to work.”