Santita Ebangwese abandoned a once promising basketball career to play Division I volleyball

first_imgIn her three years at SU, Ebangwese brings vibrancy to the Orange. Before games, Ebangwese yells, dances and does anything that will loosen the team up while still preparing for the game. The senior’s lightheartedness even plays a role in her in-game demeanor.On Oct. 8, 2017, Syracuse held a 20-19 lead in the second set against Georgia Tech. After Yelin challenged a call, every player stood still and waited for the referee’s ruling except for Ebangwese. The middle blocker jived to the music booming over the loudspeaker as if nothing were at stake.“Whatever sport I play, I have energy, especially on game day,” Ebangwese said. “I’m over the top, it’s just what I do.”Though Ebangwese’s thought back to what her basketball career could’ve been, that’s not on her mind anymore. Her focus is on guiding Syracuse to the NCAA tournament in her final season.“You have to be blind not to see it,” Yelin said. “She is so energetic and positive. She always comes to fight. That’s her personality.” As a freshman on the girls varsity volleyball team at Pittsford Sutherland (New York) High School, Santita Ebangwese watched the season from the sidelines, an outcome she was content with. She was a star on the girls varsity basketball team, appearing in 19 games that year and averaging 7.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.But after a successful spring with her club volleyball team, the Rochester native started her sophomore season for the Knights as the third-string middle blocker. This time, she refused to accept her role.“I was on the bench,” Ebangwese said. “At the time I understood why, I understood I needed to get better. It was a humbling experience, and I knew I didn’t want to be on the bench ever again.”By the beginning of her junior year, Ebangwese was a starter on the volleyball team and had received several Division I offers. Facebook Twitter Google+ Commentscenter_img Published on September 4, 2018 at 10:51 pm Contact David: ddschnei@syr.edu Her rapid progress in volleyball put basketball, a sport she could’ve played at the Division I level, behind her. Six years later, Ebangwese enters her senior year coming off a season when she led the Orange in kills (331) and hitting percentage (.374) and was named All-ACC First Team.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“I’ve thought about it a lot,” Ebangwese said. “Sometimes I miss basketball.”Growing up in Rochester, Ebangwese did everything she could athletically. She ran track, swam, and played soccer, basketball and volleyball until she was 14. Once Ebangwese reached high school, she realized it was impossible to maintain such a rigorous schedule. She chose the two she believed she had a future in: basketball and volleyball.Kevin Camelo | Digital Design EditorShe opted to attend Sutherland rather than a city of Rochester high school to play on more competitive sports teams and receive a better education, she said, which opened the door for recruiting later on.After riding the bench for the volleyball team and receiving substantial playing time for the basketball team her freshman year, Ebangwese thrived in the spring with VolleyFX. The club was a perfect fit for Ebangwese, she said, as it didn’t restrict her participation with the basketball team, something other clubs typically do for multi-sport athletes.“Those (club) coaches were like, ‘You have talent, you should cultivate it.’ They helped me do that,” Ebangwese said. “They found ways to help me balance both club and school and basketball and volleyball.”With VolleyFX, Ebangwese learned the details of volleyball. Along with enhancing her knowledge of the game, she improved the timing of her jumps, conditioning and her quickness in changing direction.While volleyball and basketball have their similarities, Ebangwese said, it took time to develop a skill set specific to volleyball that pushed her to become a Division I-caliber player.“We played on the same club team, we traveled together all the time,” said Aliah Bowllan, an SU junior who played at Sutherland with Ebangwese. “During club season, especially for volleyball, that’s really your time to get a lot better. For (Santita), it was to get ready for high school. She really got a lot better with their VFX.”Though improving in volleyball, Ebangwese stayed committed to basketball. She played in 20 contests for the Knights varsity team in her second year, averaging 7.0 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. By the end of Ebangwese’s sophomore year, colleges recruited her for basketball and volleyball. She pondered offers from Division II schools that wanted her to play both. But she felt attending a Division I school with a strong program in her preferred line of study — engineering — would better prepare her for a career beyond sports.“(Division II schools) knew I played volleyball so they thought it was more enticing to play both,” Ebangwese said. “I was like, ‘I don’t know,’ because I looked at the schools education-wise and thought, ‘Eh.’”In addition to Syracuse, Ebangwese drew interest from “more than seven” Division-I schools including Iowa, Georgia, Georgia State and Tennessee. After completing her official visits, which spanned from the August to February of her junior year, Ebangwese committed to playing volleyball at SU.Kevin Camelo | Digital Design EditorDespite Ebangwese’s official choice, she had no plans to quit basketball. She posted her best season of her high school career as a junior, averaging a double-double.“It was perfectly okay with us if she played basketball,” SU head coach Leonid Yelin said. “I knew it would be right to give her that advice so she didn’t feel pressured to do something she didn’t have to.”In July before her senior year, Notre Dame and West Virginia offered Ebangwese to play basketball — only basketball — but she declined. Her future was in Syracuse.last_img

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