NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — March Madness was in gear Friday evening with the Sweet 16, and there’s a local kid for us all to look up to.

As CBS2’s Otis Livingston reported, Chris Silva is a 6-foot 9-inch forward who plays for South Carolina. He flew alone as a teenager across the Atlantic Ocean to New Jersey to see his hoop dreams become a reality.

As South Carolina was putting the finishing touches on Duke in the second round of the NCAA tournament, Silva – a sophomore forward – was putting a cap on one of his finest moments – 17 points and 10 rebounds against the preseason number one team.

It wasn’t bad for a kid who had not played basketball, and didn’t speak much English, when he came from Africa five years ago.

“You had an assignment to do – and you’ve got to translate, and translate again,” Silva said. “It took so much time — that was the difficult part.”

“I’ve got unbelievable respect for guys that kind of leave their families to make themselves better, so they can turn around and then help their family,” said Frank Martin.

It took first-time flier three different flights from Gabon in Africa – thousands of miles – before he arrived as a sophomore at Roselle Catholic High School in New Jersey. He had just the clothes on his back and little understanding of the game of basketball.

In fact, the first time he stepped on the court in an organized game, it did not go well. The coach told him to check in the game, and he got a technical foul.

“I just went in the court,” Silva said. “That was funny.”

But he had a work ethic both in the classroom and on the court, inspired by his family and friends a continent away.

“When you come from where I come from, you’ve got to think about all the people back home that want to come here but can’t,” Silva said, “so when you want to get lazy, you have to put in your mind and say you can’t be lazy, because there are people back home that want to do what you’re doing, but can’t.”

And now, Silva is on the biggest stage in college basketball, at the world’s most famous arena, where he will try to lead South Carolina to the Final Four in front of people who know him well.

“I’m playing in front of my coaches, and my friends frim high school, and all the people I kind of grew up with,” Silva said. “It feels great; awesome.”

Silva and the South Carolina Gamecocks will beat Baylor 70-50 in the Sweet 16 Friday night at Madison Square Garden. The Gamecocks will face either Wisconsin or Florida Sunday night for the right to go to the Final Four.

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