Bellevue’s Santoro finds a new home in Columbus

COLUMBUS — On the basketball court, Carly Santoro always has faced big challenges the same way — straight on.

Santoro, a 2015 Bellevue graduate, is facing yet another big challenge.

The graduate transfer is now playing for Ohio State and has been in the starting lineup each time the Buckeyes have taken the court this season.

“It has been an awesome transition,” Santoro said. “I am starting my Masters program and I am really fortunate to be at the Ohio State University doing that. I am in the gym every day working hard and I am super excited for the season. I am super blessed to play here.”

Santoro officially got her first start for Ohio State Tuesday night when the Buckeyes hosted No. 22 South Florida.

“She is a great kid and a wonderful person,” Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said. “She plays hard and is a great representative of our program, on and off the court.”

The 5-foot-8 senior scored a team high 14 points, including eight points in the third quarter.

“She has a high IQ,” McGuff said. “She has really high standards for herself too, which I know her parents have instilled in her. No matter what happens, she plays really hard and has a great attitude.”

Santoro added three rebounds, which was tied for second-most among individuals. She was 5 of 8 from the field and 3 of 6 from the foul line. The five field goals and three free throws were also tops among the Buckeyes.

McGuff has quickly shown a faith in Santoro. She played in a team-high 32 minutes against the Bulls, who won the game, 71-47.

“The work ethic is the biggest difference between Bowling Green and here,” Santoro said. “I am surrounded by a bunch of hard working girls. My coaches push me every single day to be the best. Every single morning, I come in 45 minutes before practice and work out with my coach and managers. I did not really have the opportunity to do that at BG.”

But for Santoro, the transfer to Columbus is due to deep family roots.

“My family plays a major role in my life,” Santoro said. “My dad is one of my coaches and biggest supporters. My little sisters, grandparents, brother … I want all of my family to be able to come to every game, especially with it being my senior year. I want them in the stands. They push me every day to be the best I can be.”

Santoro’s mother, Betsy, father Kory, and sisters, Casey and Cory, were in the crowd rooting Carly on. Kory still doubles as the Bellevue girls basketball coach while Casey, a junior, and Cory, a sophomore, have aspirations to play college basketball themselves one day.

Santoro said she began looking at other colleges when Bowling Green, her previous college, did not offer her Master’s degree classes. The interest between Ohio State and Santoro was mutual.

“When we heard she was leaving Bowling Green, we reached out to her AAU coach,” McGuff said. “We certainly wanted to make sure she knew we had a strong interest. She and her parents came down and spent some time with us. We talked about what we needed and what type of role she could play.”

The Falcons struggled to a 29-60 record under coach Jennifer Roos in Santoro’s three years at BGSU. Santoro led the Falcons in scoring in each of the past two seasons and has 16 double-doubles in her career. Ohio State finished 25-6 last year, but lost all five starters to graduation.

“When Ohio State reached out to me and said I could start my Masters and play — with them graduating a lot of seniors — it gave me a great opportunity to come and have a major impact on the team,” Santoro said. “I am really excited because I have and I am going to keep growing at this game.”

McGuff admitted he had to do a little bit of research when learning that Santoro was a free agent.

“We did not know a lot. I had to go back and watch some film, which I did do,” McGuff said. “The thing that sticks out about her is she has a tremendous work ethic. She always has a great attitude. She has the chance to have a great year.”

Santoro said she is most looking forward to a Jan. 19 matchup with Michigan, where close friend Halle Thome plays. Oh, and it is Ohio State vs. Michigan on the hardwood.

“I am really good friends with Halle,” said Santoro with a big smile. “We are super excited to play each other in a couple of months. It will be super fun to play against one of my good friends. I can’t wait.”

Santoro and the Buckeyes return home Friday night against Detroit Mercy before a trip to play 11-time national champion Connecticut Sunday.

“I came here because I love my family and being close to home is nice because of my family’s support,” Santoro said. “It is also thee Ohio State University. What Ohio kid would not want to play for the Buckeyes? I am fortunate to be one of the couple few that get to play for them.”