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Sports Person of the Week
SantaMaria Earns Captain’s Hat Through Hard Work
Marcus SantaMaria has persevered throughout his career to become a versatile contributor for the Valley Regional boys’ basketball team. This year, the senior earned a team captain distinction for his efforts. (Photo courtesy of Marcus SantaMaria)
Marcus SantaMaria dedicates himself to the sport of basketball all year long, and that commitment has paid dividends for the senior and the Valley Regional boys’ basketball team. Marcus was named one of the Warriors’ senior captains for the winter season, and he’s ready to lead a new-look Valley squad to success in the Shoreline Conference.
Marcus has put in a lot of work to become an effective contributor on the floor. Making the varsity team was anything but a foregone conclusion at the start of Marcus’s career, but his persistence earned him that varsity letter.
“My proudest moment was probably my sophomore year. I set a goal going into the season to make varsity. I was a young sophomore. I worked really hard throughout the season, and I got that last varsity spot,” Marcus says. “I’ve just stayed consistent with my work ethic, playing year-round and working out every day. I was following behind nine seniors last year. I learned a lot from them, but now it’s time for me to step up.”
Marcus offers quite a bit of versatility for the Warriors. Marcus’s natural position is a small forward, but can handle the ball and also defend point guards, shooting guards, and power forwards.
“I primarily play small forward, but I’ve always been able to stretch to a guard position. I’ve been really comfortable with the basketball. I’m also on the bigger side, so I can even stretch to a power forward position,” says Marcus, who’s 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds. “I can play multiple positions, but I’ve always played a small forward. I would say point forward is a good description of the way that I play.”
Marcus backs up his versatile skill set with a sharp basketball mind. Marcus credits Valley’s coaching staff for instructing him on how to read the game the right way.
“I try to stay really well-rounded. I want to play good defense. I love to grab boards and facilitate the basketball. I feel my basketball IQ is very high,” Marcus says. “I like to feel out the game. It’s different against different teams. If I grab a rebound and there’s a long outlet pass available, I will go for it, but I don’t like to force things that aren’t there. I feel like there are a lot of challenges to face in the conference. Our coaches direct us with a good game-plan. At the same time, I try to see anything on the floor to bring to the coaches. We try to work off each other.”
Marcus’s approach is befitting of a team captain. Marcus plans on setting a prime example for his teammates just like the Warriors’ former captains did for him.
“My biggest thing is that I want to set the tone for the rest of the team,” says Marcus, who lives in Deep River. “I want to bring good energy to practice and set an example for the younger players. I looked up to the captains ahead of me, and I just want to continue that to help teach the younger players on the team.”
Head Coach Kevin Woods feels confident that the Warriors are in good hands with Marcus as one of the team captains. There were a plethora of seniors who prevented Marcus from picking up many varsity minutes last season, but the Warriors already see him as a leader, because of the way that he performed for the JV team.
“What’s interesting about Marcus is that he’s stepping in as the experienced guy in many ways. There aren’t many players who played ahead of him on the varsity team. Also, all those seniors from last year have been looking after him. He’s been an acting leader, but with this year’s varsity squad, he’s been their leader the last couple of years. I think it’s a natural transition for him,” Coach Woods says. “Marcus has worked hard to develop all facets of his game. He’s a pure jump shooter, too. He’s developed in the weight room and worked on different components of his game that used to be challenges for him that are now strengths.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the athletic landscape throughout the past year, and Valley experienced that firsthand when the Division V State Tournament was canceled before the Warriors even played a game in the bracket last season. Marcus decided to make the best of his time with so many things shut down, but he knows that he’s not the only one who took advantage of the extra time to work.
“COVID gave me so much time to focus on craft. I was going to local courts every day. I’ve seen more development over the course of this offseason than I have in my life. I did a lot of skill work. Once the COVID guidelines allowed for us to play, I saw a big jump as a player. I expect similar progression from some of the top players in the conference, but I’m ready for the challenge,” says Marcus, who also plays with the AAU Valley Basketball Club. “I’ve learned that hard work pays off. I wasn’t one of the best players when I started, and my hard work got me to where I am now.”
In terms of potentially playing in college, Marcus is still keeping his options open depending on his school of choice. One thing that Marcus has decided is that he wants to go for a major that allows him to pursue a career in physical therapy.
For now, though, Marcus is focused on his senior season with a Valley team that graduated nine seniors from last year. Despite that challenge, Marcus believes that the Warriors are in a great position to compete against their Shoreline Conference foes.
“I think we’re a little bit less experienced, but I think we have a lot of great players. I feel like we have absolutely nothing to lose,” says Marcus. “We’ll be contenders. I don’t see why we won’t be with the best teams in the conference.”