Although Preston Santos only spent his first two years of high school at Bishop Hendricken, the impact he made on the basketball program is still being felt to this day.
After transferring to Woodstock Academy in Connecticut, Santos continued to impress on the court and has solidified his place as one of the top prospects in all of New England. His hard work and performance has led him to committing to Division I UMass Amherst, as he signed his National Letter of Intent at Hendricken last week in front of family and friends.
“It feels very calming. I knew that I was committed but to sign and officially be a Minuteman, it means a lot to me, especially considering the amount of hard work that I put in,” said Santos. “In the offseason, my father always told me that when I’m not in the gym then someone else is, I took that to heart to make sure that no one else is trying to get better more than me. It’s an amazing feeling.”
Santos appreciates the time he spent at Hendricken, which made signing at the school an easy decision.
“It was a no-brainer, it was very personal for me. This is the first high school that I went to, and even if it was just for two years, it meant a lot to me winning the championship here. It means a lot that I can still text these guys, say how are you doing,” said Santos. “I really made strides (at Hendricken), it really opened a lot of doors for me with both school and athletics. I learned how to win here. After losing in the semis my first year and coming back to win it all in my second year, it meant a lot to me to come back here.”
Hendricken basketball coach Jamal Gomes was excited to see his former standout make it official, and knew he had the potential to do so from day one.
“Absolutely, I knew from the first day that I saw him in freshman basketball tryouts that he had the potential to be a special player and person. There’s a lot of great basketball players out there, but what I love about Preston is who he is and his heart. He’s a young man of strong character, strong work ethic, and I know he will be successful. I would have loved to have had him for two more years,” said Gomes.
Santos is also looking forward to getting to work at UMass, where he feels will be a good fit for his skill set and personality, and will also be close to home.
“UMass just made me feel at home, it checked off all the boxes that I was looking for in colleges. It is also close enough to Rhode Island to where my parents can watch me play. I don’t want my parents to have to buy a plane ticket or a hotel room to watch me play,” said Santos. “I also like the style of play at UMass, they will let a lanky guy like me use my size to my advantage, the coaching staff was also really welcoming.”
Few athletes make it to the collegiate ranks, and even fewer make it to the Division I level. Santos expects adjusting to the size and experience of his future opponents to be the biggest challenge moving forward.
“The biggest challenge will be going against the upperclassmen who have been there for two or three years already. Even if I’m taller than some of them, there will be guys that are 20, 30 pounds heavier than I am. That’s going to be a big eye opener,” said Santos. “Travel will also be a challenge, in prep school we would travel in spurts but in college it was be a lot more.”
Although Santos is looking forward to taking his talents to Massachusetts, he admits that he will miss the high school game at the same time.
“I’ll miss the fun. I’m always going to have fun playing basketball since I love playing, but in high school, this is where you are supposed to have fun,” said Santos. “In college it’s a job, you can’t take anything lightly, you have to play every game like it’s your last. You have to keep on top of your studies, take care of your body, it will be a big eye opener.”
Gomes is proud of Santos on and off the court, and looks forward to seeing him in a UMass uniform.
“As a coach, to me it’s not about who goes where … it’s about reaching your potential. That’s what this school is all about, guys reaching their potential and being the best that they can be in whatever they chose to do in life,” said Gomes. “I know Preston will be successful moving forward, we are proud of him and what he has accomplished.”