Most know seniors Josué Gil-Silva and Roy Yuan as two of the student managers of the men’s basketball team.
This past December, however, head coach Jerod Haase promoted both from managers to walk-ons, allowing them to realize lifelong dreams.
“It was surreal,” Gil-Silva said. “When I became a manager, at the back of my mind, that was my goal: to make the team.”
For both senior guards, basketball has always been a large part of their lives.
Gil-Silva started playing the sport when he was five years old, as his father, Jose Gil, runs his own basketball academy in Gil-Silva’s hometown of Salinas, Calif. and also was Josué’s head coach at Alisal High School. Despite receiving opportunities to play in college, he decided to attend Stanford, his “dream school,” even though playing for the Cardinal was not initially a possibility. Regardless, Gil-Silva knew he wanted to stay involved with the sport.
“I had no idea what a manager did,” Gil-Silva said. “I just tried it out my first quarter here at Stanford and I loved it. I just loved being part of the team, helping out, learning from everyone at practice.”
Yuan, who grew up in the Bay Area, played basketball at Saint Francis High School in Mountain View and scored over 1,000 points during his high school career.
“Basketball is a big part of my character,” Yuan said. “Not a lot of Asian parents, especially from the Bay Area, really push their kids into athletics, much less pursuing college athletics. It feels good knowing that I can look [my parents] in the eye and be like, ‘Thanks for supporting my dream,’ and I was actually able to do something with it.”
Despite not holding any official tryouts this year, Haase made the decision to promote Gil-Silva and Yuan based on their consistent efforts during practice and their dedication to the team.
Gil-Silva recalls being shocked when Haase shared his decision, especially after an official tryout last year ended without the program taking anyone.
“I was definitely tearing up,” Gil-Silva said. “I called my dad and we both started tearing up.”
Meanwhile, Yuan made it clear to Haase that he wanted to walk on from the moment he became a team manager.
“I think he told me ‘no’ three times before, so I was just coming in like I’m about to have that regular meeting again, he’s gonna say the same old,” Yuan said. “And then he told me ‘We finally got a spot for you.’ I kind of just stared at him. I don’t think I really processed it until afterwards.”
For Gil-Silva, making the team as a walk-on was extra special: It meant he would be able to play collegiate basketball with his cousin, sophomore Isa Silva, which has long been a dream of theirs.
“We always talked about it when we were kids,” Silva said of his cousin’s recent promotion. “Having him as a player now, it’s just really helpful and puts things into perspective. For me, whenever I have a bad game, or even a good game, I can look at the sideline and I have Josué to give me advice and to keep me centered.”
Although they did not grow up in the same city, Silva and Gil-Silva grew up playing basketball together on the same team until high school, contributing to their close relationship.
“We’re best friends,” Gil-Silva said. “It’s an amazing feeling. We played on the same team when we were younger and then once we got to high school, we stopped playing on the same team but now we’re back.”
“We would always spend the most time together; it’s the closest you can get without being blood brothers,” Silva offered. “The best part of having a family member on the team is joy — it just brings a lot of joy to something I already love doing. I get to do it with one of the people who I love most so there’s no more joyful experience than that.”
While the possibility of making the team as walk-ons was not high, it was something both managers accepted and overcame.
“The first thing they said to me is ‘Don’t have any hopes, it’s a very small chance,’” Yuan said. “But I stayed with it and just trusted myself.”
“It was a dream I had since I was a kid to play Division I basketball,” Gil-Silva added. “It’s pretty crazy that it came true.”