Point guard Santiago struggles with injury

YOUNGSTOWN — Francisco Santiago hobbled toward the end of the bench during Wednesday’s game last week, after a Robert Morris player stepped on his left leg.

The right knee, which was in a protective brace, was shifted and suffered torn cartilage.

The line was Santiago had a hyperextended knee from the summer. The injury, which Youngstown State men’s basketball coach Jerrod Calhoun revealed during Monday’s weekly news conference, was a torn ACL that the senior point guard was playing with all season and had suffered during the offseason.

He had an MRI and the results were known Monday, but not made available prior to press time.

Calhoun said he’ll wait to see if the senior guard from Cleveland keeps playing or sits. The Penguins’ next game is Saturday at Butler.

“We didn’t come out and say he had a torn ACL because it’s not fair to him or the fans,” Calhoun said. “It was an inspiration for our players. Any time you see a guy playing that injured, it gives you a little more inspiration to try to win games.”

Santiago hasn’t been his normal elf this season, hampered by the torn ACL. He’s provided vocal leadership and been out on the floor sparingly for a team that has struggled and is 2-7, with the only two wins against NCAA Division III teams. It is a very young team in desperate need of his full-time floor abilities and leadership.

Santiago struggled mentally and physically, spending plenty of time in the training room getting rehabilitation.

Why doesn’t he redshirt? Well, Santiago used his redshirt season coming from Wheeling Jesuit to YSU after his freshman season.

Calhoun was told by the Penguins athletic administration Santiago would have zero chance to redshirt this season.

Santiago was looked at by doctors from Youngstown and Cleveland, and both said he could play on the torn ACL.

“It wasn’t my decision for him to play on it,” Calhoun said. “I wanted him to know the facts. We’re at the point now we’ve got to see what the doctors say going forward.”

BETTER PLAY FROM HARTFIELD: YSU sophomore wing Braun Hartfield improved from his performance against Robert Morris and had a better game Saturday at DePaul with 7 of 12 from the floor, 5 of 5 from 3-point range and 4 of 6 from the line for 23 points.

Calhoun likes the fact that the 6-foot-6 Hartfield, a Garfield Heights graduate, is long, lanky and has the ability to get to the rim.

“He’s a young man that could be the cornerstone of our program in the future,” Calhoun said.

MISUNDERSTOOD: Calhoun said he received some flack on Twitter for comments he made saying the Horizon League had a low RPI. It does. The Horizon League is ranked No. 29.

He was making a point of how his team’s schedule of playing Butler, DePaul, Indiana and Utah State is going to help his team prepare for league play, starting Jan. 1 at Cleveland State.

“It wasn’t to bash the league RPI,” Calhoun said. “It was certainly to let our players know that the games we’re playing right now will get us ready for the league. Our league has a low average RPI. We certainly have not done anything to help that, but we’re not the only ones. One team doesn’t impact an entire league.”