Updated: Jul 9, 2020
With some key returnees and an impressive recruiting haul, Stanford will be among the teams to watch during the 2020-21 basketball season. They bring in McDonald’s All-American, Ziaire Williams, and other promising talent into Palo Alto. Looking even further into the future, they have already acquired the services of one of the top point guard prospects in the high school class of 2021, Isael “Isa” Silva, who hopes to continue the McDonald’s All-American streak at Stanford.
Silva is a dynamic ball handler, creative passer and has the ability to get to the paint to finish or kick it out to teammates. He has made strides in terms of his strength, has good defensive awareness and uses his length to his advantage on close-outs. He projects as a PG, but self-identifies as a ‘hooper’ above all else and is seemingly comfortable both on and off the ball. Before committing to Stanford, Silva also had Arizona, Gonzaga, Texas, UCLA, Utah, Vanderbilt, and Xavier vying for his services.
With an option to possibly play for the United States or Mexico, Silva shared with Pro Insight that he has his eyes set on playing for either side in the 2021 Nike Hoop Summit. Starring for Jesuit HS (CA), he also played major minutes last summer for the Compton Magic and was one of the top standouts at the Pangos All-American Camp last spring, featuring some of the best high school prospects in the country. With his combination of work ethic, intelligence on and off the court, and his strong family values, Silva has the makings of an incredible building block for Stanford’s future.
In this interview, Silva gives a detailed family background, some context surrounding his love for the game of basketball, how his committing to Stanford may have proved a doubter wrong, and much more.
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present 2021 prospect Isa Silva, from Sacramento, California:
Pro Insight: Talk a little bit about yourself — what’s your background? What’s your family like?
Isa Silva: My name is Isa — well, my full name is Isael Silva. I’m 17 years old, Mexican-American. Born in Berkeley, California, grew up most of my life in Sacramento. Dad and mom, I live with both of them half and half, a couple days and a couple days. I have one step-mom and step-sister on my dad’s side and then a step-dad and three step-siblings on that side [mom’s], but I don’t have any blood brothers or sisters. Dad is the youngest of seven [children] and mom is the middle child of three [children]. I go to Jesuit High School, I’ve been there since my freshman year and most of my middle and elementary school I went to Country Day which is a small little private school in Sacramento. Grew up playing with a team called 916 Select and then Team Lillard, and Play Hard Play Smart; in my high school days I’ve been playing with Compton Magic — that’s a pretty good basis on my basketball and family aspects.
PI: Did your parents or step-siblings play sports?
IS: My dad played high school ball, he was going to go play DII basketball, had some DII offers and letters, then he got hurt going onto campus his freshman year of college so he never really got to play after that. I think he kind of rekindled his passion of the game through me and now he’s like my best friend and we make decisions together as one — he always has my best interest and he’s always been really good at supporting me. You see a lot of parents getting enthralled with all the agents, runners and money that come with basketball. He’s taught me to stay level headed and I’m lucky to have had him in my corner, as my “basketball dad.” My mom played basketball all four years of high school — played varsity all four years — and then she went to UC Santa Cruz. Now she’s a lobbyist, she owns her own firm. She’s just a grinder, a worker, she just supports me so much and I tell people that’s where I get my little edge from...it’s from both of them, but my mom is not afraid to show it. My uncle is a coach, my dad’s side of the family is really into basketball — my uncle is a coach and an athletic director at a high school in Salinas. His son is my cousin, and my godfather, so he’s probably one of my closest cousins...he’s actually kind of on staff at Stanford, he’s a student manager there so he’ll be there when I’m there. We always wanted to go to college together so having him on staff is pretty cool. Yeah man, I’ll my cousins I’m pretty close to, I have a really good relationship with them and basketball is really prevalent on that side. So is the University [Stanford] — my aunt went to Stanford, I have two cousins that are there now, one cousin just got accepted and decided he’s going there, and then two of my other cousins got their master’s from Stanford so there’s a lot of family. My dad’s family is from Salinas, which is pretty close to Stanford; mom’s family is from Colusa, which is by a small little city called Turlock in Northern California.
PI: Did you grow up playing any other sports?
IS: I did grow up playing other sports and I think my dad always wanted me to play basketball...he tells me he did, but he helped and they both helped me find whatever I loved and my passion ended up being basketball. My passion was basketball, but I grew up playing baseball until I was like seven [years old] and I played all the way up until sixth grade, then I stopped playing because I just didn’t like it. So ever since sixth grade I just focused and put all of my energy into basketball.
PI: What made you fall in love with basketball?
IS: I think I always kind of had a natural [feel], something just flowed from me when I played, like it was something that I worked really really hard at and it was something that I pushed myself at and it was really easy for me to just like [play]. That’s what I could do all day...like, I couldn’t eat, I could just stay outside and play. I had that feeling in sixth grade and I told my dad, “I want to be the best player ever.” That’s always been what I’ve thought and I think if you think that way and you know, I’ve always had a strong connection with God, so I think he gave me an ability to express myself through an art form of basketball — that’s how I like to look at it. Through that art, hopefully I get to inspire a lot of kids and help them find their passions, whether it’s drawing, race car driving, or whatever they want to do as long as they love it...that’s what we're supposed to do as humans.
PI: For those who aren’t super familiar with your game, what are some of your greatest strengths?
IS: I think the one that stood out in my high school days and one that has kind of propelled me to where I’m at now is my passing. I never really grew up being a passer...I grew up running corner to corner to catch and shoot — like my job was to hit threes, to be kind of like a Kyle Korver. In sixth grade my dad was like, “look son, you want to reach your goals we got to develop PG skills,” so I remember doing the same ball-handling drills every day. I would get really frustrated, like I was crying growing up like “man this stuff is boring,” but eventually I learned how to really embrace the basics and not get bored with them and I think that’s something that’s important. So that helped me have an all-around game. I think now the next step for me is just being able to shoot consistently while being the man out there that’s setting everything up. When I play off the ball my numbers are really good and then when I play on the ball I haven’t found that balance yet of where I can do it consistently. We’ve just been working on my shot, especially my follow-through, same shot same flick of the wrist and just stuff that I did when I was a kid so I think eventually it’s going to start coming together and you know, some stuff will probably get weaker and I’ll have to strengthen that and I think it’s just a battle of working on your strengths and weaknesses.
PI: What about some things you still need to work on?
IS: Yeah I think that shooting while being the [floor] general in a way...a lot has to do with discipline, you know, like pulling your hand back or something just because you’re feeling a little swaggy that day. You might get a little energy and that might change the way you shoot, but that’s probably the most important time when you got to go back to like catch it, don’t dip the ball, get right to your spot, and hold your follow through. Like it sounds boring and robotic, but over time once you start mastering that, master that in games and you turn into the Stephs and Klays because they put so much time in and it’s intentional...so that’s what we talk about is putting in intentional work. You can go out and shoot on the machine for like three hours, but that’s not going to do you good if you’re picking up bad habits. I think in high school, this last high school season and the one before I played really well, but I think I picked up bad habits shooting-wise because you know, you go from playing the top players in the country to playing locally and it’s harder to push yourself and stay disciplined with what you work on. So that’s what I’m working on now and that’s what I’m going to continue to work on until I get better at it. Just getting stronger, after the season, me and my weight trainer — even still this week we meet Monday, Wednesday, Friday — and we go in the garage and we’ve just been working on quick-twitch muscles, trying to get off the ground quick and getting some weight on me. I think I’ve put on like 11 pounds since after the season and making sure I’m durable for college and NBA basketball.
PI: Wow, 11 pounds? Can you feel a difference?
IS: Yeah I’m not going to gas it up too much, like it might not be 11 — I think I was 174 and now I’m like 181-186, so I think it’s just maintaining it. I feel good, like sturdy, not taking bumps has been helping a lot I think. I miss playing against people, but