Most high school athletes can only dream of being able to call themselves state champions, but Rosary Academy senior Caylee Santos can already add that title to her resume – times two.
As a freshman, Santos was a member of the Royals 2017 CIF Division III girls basketball state championship team. She was wide-eyed and in unfamiliar territory.
“Freshman year, I was scared,” says Santos. “I had never been in that environment before…and I didn’t really understand the game of basketball back then.”
Santos soaked up the experience, and the Royals climbed back to the top earlier this year, securing their second CIF state title, this time in Division I. Now in more familiar surroundings, Santos understood what it took to be a champion and was ready for the challenge. Winning two state championships in three years is no easy feat, and she credits Rosary basketball head coach Richard Yoon with raising her understanding of the game to a new level.
“He’s taught me so much,” says Santos of Yoon. “When I walked into basketball my freshman year, there was more to basketball than I had learned before. I started understanding [the game] more because of him.”
As a shooting guard for the Royals, the 18-year-old loves the feeling she gets when she sinks a basket and hears the cheers from the bench. Despite her high level of skill, Santos is always looking to improve.
“I think Caylee is sometimes the unsung hero on the team,” says Yoon. “She does all the little things teams need to be successful but are not glamorous to report. She is a lights-out shooter, but more importantly, she takes pride in her defense, which is what coaches want out of their players.”
Her experiences have brought Santos more than just better insight into the game, but a deeper appreciation for how basketball has molded her growth as a person.
I continue [playing] to be a better person,” says Santos. “I don’t just learn basketball. I learn life skills, how to be a better teammate and how to be a leader.”
Off the court, Santos serves as a member of Rosary’s Campus Ministry team, where she helps prepare mass and assists with charity fundraisers. She is also a TA at church and enjoys teaching young kids about God. Both experiences have strengthened her faith.
“I know he’s always with me and that he’s with my team,” says Santos.
The Cerritos resident is planning on playing collegiate basketball alongside studying business and possibly attending graduate school. It was her stepfather who introduced Santos to the game when she was around five years old, and she is grateful for the encouragement she receives from both her parents and stepparents.
“They give me so much support,” says Santos. “Even if I’m down on basketball, they’ll lift me up.”