CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Everyone has a place in the world where they feel the most comfortable.
For Whitley Silva, that's on a basketball court.
Whether it's playing, coaching or just watching, Silva's connection with the game runs deep.
"There's a peace when I get out on the court," Silva explained. "Nothing else matters. We get out here, put up shots and everything else just goes away."
Silva played on her high school team at Richmond Christian and has helped coach her cousin's AAU team. She knew she wanted to continue her career in college but she wasn't heavily recruited.
So Silva began an online search to find a school that might be looking for someone with her particular skills. She estimates she filled out dozens of online questionairres including one for a small NAIA school called Kentucky Christian University, a place she had never heard of before finding them online.
"Coach (Lisa) Conn emailed me, wanted me to come up for a workout. Within 10 minutes of being at the school, I just knew it was right."
"We're looking for the complete package" added Conn. "It's not just about their ability to play basketball as much as it is about their Christian character and their ability to fit within the team."
Silva will be a first-year small forward for the Lady Knights, but it won't exactly be her first year.
We told you Silva played on her high school team at Richmond Christian, but that was nine years ago. Silva will be KCU's newest, oldest player at the age of 27.
Whitley originally went to Liberty after graduating high school with the intention of walking on to the women's team there, but admittedly didn't take school as seriously as she should.
She has spent the better part of the last decade working and coaching but never getting over the feeling of what might have been with her playing career.
"One night I found all my old high school gear," Silva recalled. "I took it to my mom crying. I said 'Mom, I'm not done with this game. I wish I would have played.'"
"It doesn't matter what age you are" Conn said. "If you're willing to work hard and show you still have a love for the game and the willingness to put yourself out there, I feel like she should get a shot."
So Silva is being afforded an opportunity not many of us get, a second chance to make a first impression. She will be almost 10 years older than some of her teammates, but that disparity has yet to make itself any kind of issue in her progress.
"She (Conn) never really made it an issue," Silva said. "She looked at me as an older player and said that will be to your benefit."
"I'm hoping she can show her passion for the game and that her work ethic shows up every day and that she will bring other players along with her," Conn said.
"It means a lot more to me," Silva added. "I'm not saying it doesn't mean a lot to them (her teammates), but there's a lot more riding on this for me than them. They could get another shot. they could take some time off and go back. This is my one shot."
"Everything has lined up to say, this is where I'm supposed to be. This is what's supposed to happen. I'm just going along for the ride, ready to see what's going to happen."
Even though she never played at Liberty, because of the number of credits she earned and is transferring, Silva doesn't have a full 4 years of eligibility. Her exact eligibility remains to be worked out, but she will have at least three seasons to fulfill her dream at KCU.
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