Alisal Alum’s Basketball Journey


Warming up before the Stanford-Oregon State game, Josue Gil-Silva drives in for a layup during warmups. Gil-Silva earned a spot on the team and got the opportunity to play in four games this season. “It’s been amazing, I have been able to play four games so far. Something I would not have been able to manage last year ago,” he said.

Many high school athletes dream of playing in college, especially at the Division 1 level. The reality is that an average of only two percent of student-athletes get to play as Division 1. These chances are even lower in Monterey County, making it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for local athletes, making beating the odds of becoming a Division 1 athlete extremely difficult and challenging. Yet, despite all these factors, Josue Gil-Silva was able to overcome these odds and accomplish his dream.

Basketball has been a major part of Gil-Silva’s life. Yet, the summer prior to his freshmen year he experienced two injuries, one was a microfracture, and the other was a torn ACL. Although it was a difficult situation to recover from, his drive and desire to constantly be better earned him the ability to play with the varsity team during his freshman year of high school. 

From then on, Gil-Silva had a successful high school career as his father and high school coach Jose Gil explained. “He knew that it had to be grit, ganas, it had to be hard work. When he was at Alisal High School he had a really good high school career. He became one of our top scorers ever in the history of Alisal High School, played four years varsity, and won three championships with him as one of the players on the team.” 

Both academic and athletic accomplishments throughout his high school years allowed him to acquire opportunities to play as Division 2 and Division 3 basketball. Initially, he was determined to continue playing basketball in college; however, upon applying to colleges and universities he was conflicted between deciding to pursue college basketball or his education. “It was a tough decision to make,” Gil-Silva said. “I got into my dream school [Stanford] and I decided to go there even though I was not getting recruited to play basketball there. It was the best thing for my education and my cousin was there. It was the right call for me.”

Once he was committed to attend Stanford University to focus on his education, Gil-Silva came across the opportunity to work at a Stanford basketball summer camp before entering his freshman year. Throughout the duration of this summer camp program he was able to meet Stanford coaches, managers, and players allowing him to get closer with some of the personnel and staff. “I stayed up at the dorms with one of the managers at the time named Jordan and became good friends with him,” he said. “I just loved it, like coaching and staying around watching the game through the program. I ended up doing that my freshman and junior year.” 

From then on, Gil-Silva reached out to the coaching staff his freshman year, but as there were no available walk-in positions, he became team manager. With the role of team manager, Gil-Silva was able to stay active in the sport and benefit from athlete perks. He was in charge of setting up the gym, scoreboard, supplies for coaches, and taking out basketballs, both for practice and games. But as time progressed he became more involved with the performance of the athletes of the team. This meant helping with drills, playing defense, holding out pads, playing out as scout teams, and replicating the possible plays of the opposing teams. “Also in the spring we would usually play a lot of pickup with the team. So, a lot of guys were hurt last spring and so that was kind of my opportunity to play with the team. Every week I was playing pickup with them. It was fun, a lot of former players would come play too, like NBA players,” he said.

Entering his senior year at Stanford, Gil-Silva was consistently helping out and staying involved with his role in the team, as well as bettering his skills/performance on his own time. He never expected anything in return from the contributions he made while helping out the basketball team and was rather thankful that the opportunity allowed him to stay connected to his passion. Yet, late in the season Gil-Silva was called by the basketball coach and received the unexpected news that he was now part of the basketball team as a walk-on. “The season had begun. It was kind of after Thanksgiving break he pulled me to the side and asked me if I still wanted to be part of the team. The opportunity came when I least expected it and it was pretty awesome,” he said.

Gil-Silva participated in a total of four games –  Oregon State, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, University of California Berkeley, and University of Washington.  The Cardinals went 2-2 in those games. “I was able to get into the game, got up two shots,” he said. “I didn’t hit any of them, but I got a rebound, and was able to get in the statistics sheet and got a steal versus Oregon State. It’s mostly been great getting out there and playing in front of the fans.” Overall, Gil-Silva has enjoyed the process of becoming more confident and improving his strengths as it shows the growth that he had undergone.

Recently, he was admitted to Stanford’s Master’s Mechanical Engineering program, which as of 2022 only accepted eight percent of its applicants. Gil-Silva decided to pursue his Master’s degree his senior year as he had completed a majority of his undergraduate credits and through Stanford’s co-term master’s program he would be able to begin the Master’s program credits as an undergraduate student. 

Due to this opportunity, he has set the goal of completing his Master’s degree in one year. “I am getting my Master’s in mechanical engineering and concentrating on design methodology, which means that my main emphasis will be on designing products that solve real societal problems. I hope to continue building my design and engineering skills while working on cool projects,” he said. 

With his acceptance to the Master’s program not only will he be able to focus on his education, but he also gained eligibility to play a second year on the basketball team. “I’m super excited to get to play on the team again. I hope to improve my game this offseason and our ultimate goal is to make the NCAA tournament next season,” he said.

The trajectory of getting to play as a Division one athlete has taught him to become his own supporter and believe in one-self as it leads to perseverance and to achieve goals. He is currently a senior pursuing a major in mechanical engineering and expected to graduate this summer of 2023. Gil-Silva hopes of one day being able to give back to his community. 

Meanwhile, for those wanting to follow into his footsteps and play college sports in the future, he has some advice: “Set goals and stick with the plan. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not possible, it won’t be easy or what you expect but everyone has a different path so don’t compare yourself to others,” Gil-Silva said.