Jun 17, 2013 9:31 PM by Bill Halter
Kristina Santiago will play her second season as a professional in Israel. The Righetti High School and Cal Poly graduate will play for Hapoel Rishon Le-Zion in the Israeli Basketball Premier League starting in October.
Santiago won a league championship and was named Most Valuable Player in the Bulgarian League last season. The 23 year old led the league with an average of 21.6 points per game. Santiago averaged 9.4 rebounds and 2 steals as well in 34 games for Dunav. "When I lived in Bulgaria I loved my team. I would have liked to stay, if it was a better league with more competition I would have stayed" said Santiago.
The Israeli League lasts for six months compared to an eight month season in Bulgaria but Santiago will get a pay raise in Israel. "For me and my career I really wanted it to take off. Israel's one of the best league's in the world, probably top three or four this year. So getting the opportunity to play in Israel was really big for me and it's one of the top places that I wanted to end up" said Santiago.
Santiago says she considered the safety of living in Israel before signing the contract. "It's definitely something that you have to think about when going to a place like Israel. Where I'm going is right next to the capital, I guess for that area it's one of the safest places but really any where that you go in the world, you're taking a risk. Anywhere, even in America we have problems here too" said Santiago.
Hapoel Rishon Le-Zion has never won the Isreali League championship. There are 11 teams in the 56 year old league.
Santiago was a two-time winner of the Big West Player of the Year award at Cal Poly and is the program leader in points and rebounds.
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