This article is part of a running series the Daily sports staff will be publishing on seniors.
Oscar da Silva ’21 is a six-foot-nine forward from Munich, Germany, on Stanford’s men’s basketball team. A decorated Cardinal athlete and biology major, da Silva won 2019-2020 Pac-12 First Team honors, is a two-time Pac-12 All-Academic team member and what many may call the embodiment of a successful “student-athlete.” He was the leading scorer and rebounder for the Cardinal as a junior during the 2019-20 season, averaging 15.7 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.
This season, da Silva is returning for his senior year and is looking to help Stanford secure its first Pac-12 championship since 2004. The Daily’s Teddy Solomon spoke with da Silva, who shared his thoughts on the abrupt end to his junior season, goals for his final year and reflections on his time on the Farm.
The Stanford Daily (TSD): Tell me about your favorite moment from your first three years at Stanford — a game, a tournament, a shot, etc.
Oscar da Silva (OdS): I’ll pick a moment in Maples. There was our game my freshman year against UCLA where we won in double overtime with two of our starters out with five fouls. I personally had a decent game that game and made a big play down the stretch guarding Aaron Holiday, and that was just a very fun game. My coach from Germany was actually here watching that game, and it was just a great team win and really fun to come out on top that game.
From last year, there was a game against Colorado. There was one particular moment when we were on defense and [now-senior guard] Daejon [Davis] deflected a ball on the wing, chased it down to half court, threw himself on the ground to throw the ball forward towards their basket, then [now-sophomore forward] Spencer [Jones] comes running down the court, throws himself on the ground to secure the ball. [Now sophomore forward] James Keefe comes after him also throwing himself on the ground trying to secure the ball. Spencer comes up with it and throws it back to me. I’m trailing the play and then I get a dunk that put us up 12 or 14 points or so in what was a very important game for us at the time. And Maples just completely erupted. That was probably my favorite moment of last year’s season.
TSD: You obviously have a very close relationship with Head Coach Jerod Haase, tell me about the impact he has had on your life both as a basketball player and personally.
OdS: What I love about Coach Haase is that his singular focus is not basketball. He teaches us a lot about respect and taking responsibility and becoming an independent responsible man. From a basketball standpoint, I feel like I’ve made a lot of progress, and I’m very thankful to him for giving me the role and the trust and the confidence that he’s given me over the last three years. It’s kind of sad to think about that this is going to be our last season together, but I definitely owe him a lot, and I’m thankful to be playing for him.
TSD: Given the ongoing global pandemic, your senior season is sure to be different from how you expected it. How does it feel to be closing out your time at Stanford during such challenging and unusual times?
OdS: It’s fun and comforting that we’re all back here together. This bubble that everyone always talks about at Stanford now is even more of a bubble — and probably one of the better places to be at during these times. We’re getting tested every day that we hit the court, and we have a lot of social distancing guidelines and protocols in place. We live in our own dorm, so I feel very good about being here, honestly, at this point.
TSD: Reflecting back on this past season, your Cardinal squad was near the top of the NET rankings for the entire season, finishing at No. 33, and was on track to be in the NCAA Tournament. What was going right for you as a player and for your team on the whole this past season?
OdS: I think it was all a product of a collective effort. I happened to be the leading scorer and rebounder, but I think that was just part of a bigger picture. And I felt like, maybe for the first time since I’ve been here, that we were really a homogenous group on the court, which was fun. So that at the same time made us more dangerous, too, because we had so many weapons. Our defense was really really good last year, too, and I think that those are probably the main two reasons why we saw some success last year.
TSD: On a related note, when the NCAA Tournament got canceled due to COVID-19, did you feel like you had a great opportunity stolen from you, or did it just fuel your fire to improve and try to win a Pac-12 championship this upcoming season?
OdS: Certainly both. It was definitely rough in the moment when we knew that the season was going to be cancelled because we worked really hard to put ourselves in that spot. And so it was certainly disappointing to have that taken away from us. But at the same time, like you said we, wanted to bounce back from that and come back and win a championship this year—that’s definitely our goal. We knew that we would have most of our guys back—I think [then-freshman guard] Ty [Terry] at the time wasn’t even sure if he was going to go. [Then-junior guard] Isaac [White], we knew that he was going to try to transfer — but the core of the team really stayed together. And we knew that we would have a good freshman class coming in and that made our hopes for this year even bigger.
TSD: Looking ahead to the 2020-2021 season, the Pac-12 is, to put it simply, loaded. From Arizona State to UCLA to Stanford, the conference is seemingly as good as it has been in recent memory. What do you see when you look around the league, and how good do you think the Pac-12 will be in this upcoming season?
OdS: I think it’s going to be a very strong league and probably the strongest that I’ve faced. But fortunately, I think we’re one of those title contenders and one of the reasons why the Pac-12 is so good this year. So it’s certainly going to be fun to play against those top teams and also teams from other conferences and see how we compare to them. I’m very excited to get this season rolling.
TSD: A lot of the talk around this Stanford team has been the loss of freshman standout Terry. How do you expect your team to fill the void left by his departure?
OdS: Right, so he played the point guard spot pretty much all of last year, and it’s definitely an adjustment when you have your starting point guard leave. But I think we can compensate it with our versatility that I mentioned earlier. We have a lot of guys who can fill out part of that role, and I think collectively we can do a very good job filling out that role as a whole. Just from having different guys bring up the ball and initiate the offense, and I think we have a lot of guys on the team that are able to do that. And so maybe in that way, it makes us even more unpredictable.
TSD: Stanford is bringing in five-star recruit Ziaire Williams, and he is sure to add to what is already an immensely talented team. How significant of a role will he play as a freshman?
OdS: I think he’s going to play a big role. We had our first practice [on Oct. 14], and he is very versatile, very confident and a great offensive and defensive weapon for any team that he’s on. We’re happy to have him and incorporate him in our scheme — and from what I’ve seen so far, he looks really good.
TSD: What is your main goal as you close out your college career? Is it a Pac-12 championship? Or maybe even an NCAA title?
OdS: Yeah, for sure. Winning a championship during my time here is definitely a dream that hasn’t come true yet, but I think we’re on the verge of getting there. Last year we almost won a championship at the Thanksgiving tournament in Kansas City — ended up losing by one point against Butler. I think the idea of winning a championship has never been more present in our minds than this year, so we have high aspirations. And whether it be a pre-season tournament championship, the Pac-12 championship, or even going for it all in March and April, winning a championship is definitely on the agenda and one of our goals this year.
TSD: What do you plan on doing after you graduate? Are you aiming for the NBA, playing professionally overseas or something separate from basketball entirely?
OdS: I definitely want to continue playing. I have professional aspirations, and hopefully I can improve my game to a point where I’m able to be in the draft next year. So I’ll definitely keep playing. And afterwards — thankfully because I went to such a great school — I have a lot to fall back on, so maybe once I’m done playing I’ll go back to grad school and start working at some point.
This transcript has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Contact Teddy Solomon at tedsol ‘at’ stanford.edu.