The rise of Marcus Santos-Silva, the junior who’s leading VCU men’s basketball in points and rebounds

Junior forward Marcus Santos-Silva said when he plays he focuses on having fun. Photo by Jon Mirador

Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor

For junior forward Marcus Santos-Silva, it’s not about how many points or rebounds he logs a night. All that’s on his mind is having fun. 

That mindset has worked for the Taunton, Massachusetts, native this season as he leads men’s basketball in average points and rebounds through the first eight games. 

“If I focus on anything else, it’s going to throw me off,” Santos-Silva said. “Just go in and have fun and do what I need to do to help my team get the win.”

Santos-Silva has been a force on the glass this season, posting 76 rebounds for the Rams. Last weekend in the Emerald Coast Classic, Santos-Silva logged 41 points and 13 rebounds in two games. 

“I have the mentality that every rebound is mine and I try to at least get my hands on it,” Santos-Silva said. “If I can’t get it physically, I’ll slap it to a teammate.”

The 6-foot-7 forward has improved in the paint from a year ago, averaging 9.5 boards this season. Last year, he averaged 7.4 for the Rams. 

Santos-Silva posted a season-high 18 rebounds Nov. 5 against St. Francis (Pa.) and has logged double-digit rebounds in four games this season. 

“He’s a warrior,” coach Mike Rhoades said of Santos-Silva. “He just thinks he’s going to get every rebound. He’s the hardest worker in the program and he’s rewarding himself because of how hard he works.”

Over the summer, Santos-Silva was in the gym working on his ball handling, post play and playing consistently. 

Santos-Silva said he noticed his improvement at the beginning of the Rams’ summer workouts. 

“When we started to do summer workouts, all of my hard work started to pay off — stuff was coming easier for me,” Santos-Silva said. “I was able to move real easy and then once the season started to come up, that’s when it started to click.”

Rhoades said Santos-Silva’s footwork has improved from last season, as well as his ball handling.

“I think when he got here he sort of had one beat-you-up move to score,” Rhoades said. “Now, this weekend he scored in so many different ways: both off the glass, a little bit of range, his different drives, his different angles.”

Santos-Silva is not always the tallest person on the floor, but that has not discouraged him from attacking the paint.

In the Nov. 29 matchup against Purdue, Santos-Silva lined up across from Matt Haarms, who stands at 7 feet, 3 inches, and scored a team-high 19 points. He was able to attack Haarms in the paint, getting him to foul out late in the game.

“I just focus on if I play harder than them, I’m going to be fine,” Santos-Silva said. “If I play more active and just go 100% each time, I know I’m going to be fine.”

Santos-Silva also went toe-to-toe with UCF’s 7-foot-6 Tacko Fall last season in the first round of the NCAA tournament. 

Even though Santos-Silva’s role has expanded this season, as he leads the team in points, he still plays each game with enthusiasm. 

Santos-Silva said his favorite part of playing is people coming up to him after the game to compliment him. 

“People come up to me and say they just love the way I play on the court, I just have so much enthusiasm,” Santos-Silva said. 

That enthusiasm is seen in each game, whether it’s trying to fire up the crowd or high fiving his teammates. 

“As long as I’m having fun,” Santos-Silva said. “I’m good.”

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