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TCU’s Corey Santee

January 19, 2004 Columns No Comments

TCU’s Hard-Working Corey Santee

by Zach Van Hart

He looks like Mekhi Phifer, except not as big. His shot looks like Steve Logan’s, except not as pretty. His job is to lead his team; however his team is not very good. Who is this possible unfortunate soul? Corey Santee, junior point guard for TCU.

Photo courtesy of TCU
Never heard of him? Why would you? Starting point guards for one of the worst teams in the country’s fifth-best conference do not get much media coverage. You probably would have a hard time finding many people in Dallas or Fort Worth who know exactly who Santee is. When you’re a point guard though, recognition is the least of your concerns.

Saturday, Santee led his teammates into Fifth Third Arena, home of the undefeated and No. 7 Cincinnati Bearcats. Fifth Third is known as the toughest place to play in C-USA and this was the first time playing here for every Horned Frog player. If anyone was going to lead TCU to a momentous upset, it would be Santee. Regardless of the odds or the magnitude of the game, Santee prepared like it was any other.

During warm-ups, he does it all. He will take his shots of course, but that’s just the beginning. While teammates continue shooting, Santee does passing drills with fellow backcourt mate Marcus Shropshire. When Shrop goes back to shooting, Santee dribbles for ten minutes. Then he stretches. Then he sits, by himself, for another ten minutes, simply visualizing and getting mentally prepared. He is a point guard; this is what he is supposed to do.

Especially against a team like Cincinnati, which has one of the best press defenses in the country. Santee would be able to handle the pressure, the question was would the rest of his teammates be able to do the same. Like all point guards should, but more and more today do not, Santee has sick handles. Nothing fancy, nothing that’ll get him on the And1 Tour, but good enough that you will rarely see the ball get stolen from him.

While his dribbling ability is still in tact, the rest of his play is not entirely. That’s because dribbling is a solo project. Scoring, assists; these are dependent upon teammates. This is the problem, as Santee’s team has continually lessened in talented during his three years at TCU. As his team’s talent has gone, so have his stats.

Entering this season, Santee had averaged 15.4 points and 5.4 assists per game. Both of those averages are down this year. He is doing all he can, but it does not seem to be enough. He is very similar to the character Samuel L. Jackson plays in “Pulp Fiction.” He is trying real hard to be the Shepard, but he’s not quite there yet.

So he starts the game off by guarding James White on UC’s first possession. Granted, White is a 6-foot-10 leaper, while Santee stands at maybe 6-2. Still, Santee is going to give it a shot because his team needs him too. White scores on the play.

Santee is not going to be intimidated, even if it takes him awhile to get into the flow of the game. His first pass he makes is a bad one, resulting in a turnover. A few minutes into the game he finds a lane and drives right to the hoop. White blocks him. Santee’s next shot is an airball. Despite being a 76.8 percent free throw shooter this season, he misses his first from the charity stripe.

But like all great point guards, he used his ball handling skills to get going. While his teammates struggled with the press all night, Santee handled it as well as any one player could. He used his own style to do it, making at least five rainbow passes that went 25 feet in the air, to beat the press. He did end up with four turnovers, but he countered with five assists.

He finally scored with five minutes remaining in the first half, which cut the Bearcats lead to a mere two. Santee’s team was hanging around with the conference’s powerhouse. After a huge dunk by Jason Maxiell that electrified the crowd, Santee simply went coast-to-coast, drawing the third personal foul on Tony Bobbitt, sank both of his free throws and quieted the Bearcat crowd, at least for a moment.

Cincinnati responded with a 7-0 run, taking a nine-point lead. With the game slipping away, Santee came through again, sinking a contested three-pointer with the shot clock running down. The lead was six, but TCU would never get closer. Santee would not score again.

The second half was similar to watching a slow death. As his team continued to fall farther and farther behind, Santee dealt with the cheer of, “Airball,” every time he touched the ball. Yet as he has his whole career, he slid under the radar of the fans and even me, as he checked out of the game with only a few minutes to go, his team long out of the game, as hardly a soul noticed.

Just another point guard on another sub-.500 team, Santee is a mere afterthought to many throughout C-USA and an unknown to many throughout the country. Yet he is doing what he can to change his fortunes and the fortunes of his team. He’s trying real hard to be the Shepard; he’s just not there yet.


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