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South Carolina forward Chris Silva’s journey from Gabon to the Final Four

South Carolina forward Chris Silva left his home in Gabon when he was 15, chasing his hoop dreams in the United States. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
South Carolina forward Chris Silva left his home in Gabon when he was 15, chasing his hoop dreams in the United States. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

GLENDALE, Ariz. – The phone calls between Chris Silva and his dad are neither frequent nor cheap.

The simple logistics of arranging a call from Columbia, South Carolina, to Libreville, Gabon are prohibitive. There is the five-hour time difference, for starters.

It’s a routine the two have performed for four-and-a-half years, since Silva moved from Gabon to New Jersey as a 15-year-old, hoping to play basketball for Roselle Catholic High and, someday, in the NBA.

“I was young. I didn’t really know what I was getting into,” Silva said. “I just wanted to chase my dream. When I got the opportunity, I just went for it and when I got here the first year was difficult because I was full of energy. I wanted to pursue my dream. But after a month I started to feel homesick and miss my family.”

So Silva calls his parents and his three brothers in Gabon as often as possible. His father, who played for the Gabonese national team, played an instrumental role in sending his teenage son to the United States to pursue his dream of playing professionally, in a country with the basketball infrastructure to make that happen.

At Roselle Catholic, Silva played with Isaiah Briscoe, a McDonald’s All-American who now plays for the Kentucky Wildcats. There he developed into a highly-regarded prospect in his own right, ranked the No. 36 power forward in the country by 247 Sports, with scholarship offers from schools such as Georgetown, Syracuse and Villanova.

He chose South Carolina and intense coach Frank Martin. It turns out the pair fit well, with Martin’s fire matched by Silva’s boundless energy.

Teammate Hassani Gravet says Silva, “reminds me of a Russell Westbrook big man.”

Silva has emerged as a key player for Martin’s squad during its run to the program first NCAA Tournament appearance in a decade and first Final Four. He averages 10.1 points and 5.9 rebounds in 20.7 minutes per game.

“I’ve been harder on him than anyone on our team, because we need him to be real good for our team to be as good as it can be,” Martin said. “And he’s not at a place yet from a basketball knowledge to do some of the things that he’s eventually going to do. But he doesn’t run away from it. He loves it.”

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