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Genetic Chemistry

Brotherly Bond Revitalizes Team Cachet
Santana+Bolden+drives+past+his+defender+with+a+quick+first+step.
Leo Taghert
Santana Bolden drives past his defender with a quick first step.

Upon walking into the basketball courts in the Center of Clayton, there’s about a 90% chance of seeing two familiar faces: Santana and Sabastian Bolden.

As the 2024 Clayton basketball season comes to a close, it’s important to recognize the special chemistry displayed by brothers Santana Bolden, senior, and Sabastian Bolden, freshman. Age is just about the only thing that separates these two hoopers, as their playstyle are perfectly complementary to one another. During a typical possession with both brothers on the court Santana, the playmaker, will survey the defense and either create a look for himself or drive and kick to his brother on the perimeter.

At the final game of the year, at Webster Groves, freshman Sabastian Bolden spaces the floor with a three-pointer. The team lost the game 68 to 75 at Districts. (Leo Taghert)

“[I] knew what he was thinking when he was driving, so I could space out and get myself open. [Having] my brother on the team was way better for me, especially as a freshman,” Sabastian said. “It was not easy to score, and he made it easier for me to get my buckets.”

These brothers are connected by more than genetics; the two share a special drive for basketball. The camaraderie between these young athletes has grown strong within the gym’s walls since their early days.

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“Our whole life, we’ve been playing against each other. That’s how we both got better. We’ve been making each other better our whole life,” Santana said.

Based on last season, Santana was predicted to be a standout player, averaging 10.6 points per game, making him the third-leading scorer. This year, Santana increased his scoring by six points per game, as he helped lead the team to a conference championship.

From the beginning of the season, the team knew Santana was going to be a dude. Sabastian on the other hand was a question mark. Coming into his first high school season, no one was sure what to expect. But, sure enough, within just a couple of months, Sabastian had made the team and worked his way into the starting lineup as a sharpshooting floor spacer while shooting 39.1% from three and averaging seven-point nine points per game.

“That was definitely at the center playing against him,” Santana said. “We’re playing one-on-one, and I’m actually playing. I’m trying to make him better. And I’m playing for real.”

Throughout their lives, Santana believes playing together empowered them for varsity-level competition. Shockingly, the boys had never played organized basketball with one another before this season. Instead, their chemistry was shaped through pickup games. This gave their dynamic an exciting flash of streetball as they’d swing creative skip passes toward each other.

Taking a leap in the game against St. Mary’s, senior Santana Bolden finishes a floater. (Leo Taghert)

“Finally getting a chance to play together was an advantage. We both know [each other’s] strengths [since] we’ve been playing together our whole life,” Santana said. “We both know what we’re good at; we have chemistry.”

The brothers exude a soft-spoken confidence as if, at any moment, they could pull out a basketball from their bookbag and cross you up in the hall at school. This quiet confidence infected the team, as a whole, and supplied the program with a newfound prestige.

“With the way we fought and how hard we worked, no one can just hear ‘Clayton’ anymore and say, ‘Oh it’s just Clayton.’ No, we have respect now,” Santana said.

One brother may be leaving Clayton High, but the Bolden bucket-getting legacy will live on. Their dedication and model of hard work will ring through the rafters of Stuber for years to come.

This story was originally published on The Globe on April 30, 2024.