After an outstanding basketball career at Okeechobee High School, Silas Madrigal was determined to keep playing, even if it meant going far from home and to a place that isn’t exactly known for the kind of rural vibe he’s accustomed to.
Chicago and Okeechobee both border large bodies of water, but that’s about the only similarity they share.
Madrigal, son of Letty and Howard Madrigal, is a Seminole tribal member who grew up in Okeechobee and attended Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School on the Brighton Reservation before going to OHS. Since August, he has been in the Windy City attending North Park University, a private Christian school with an enrollment of 3,200. The school is located on Chicago’s North Side, within five miles of Wrigley Field and the shores of Lake Michigan.
“It definitely is a lot to take in, but I got the hang of things quite fast and it has been fun,” Madrigal said in an email to The Seminole Tribune. “I have been able to visit parts of the city. I have been to Lake Michigan and I have even seen The Bean (a 100-ton stainless steel structure shaped like a bean and popular with tourists).”
The North Park basketball program has a rich history on the court that includes five national titles at the Division III level.
How did a kid who grew up in Okeechobee – population about 5,600 – land in the country’s third largest city with a population of 2.6 million?
“I ended up in Chicago basically by getting in contact with the men’s basketball coach and later after I researched a little about the school I wanted to go there,” Madrigal said.
So far, so good. Madrigal lives in a dorm on campus and has quickly settled into his new home thanks a warm welcome from the school.
“I really like how nice and helpful the staff and student body were during my first few days,” he said.
It’s no surprise that playing at the collegiate level includes high-octane practices, which suits Madrigal just fine.
“The practices here are definitely more intense then at OHS. We’re always yelling and communicating on the floor and push each other more when we’re running or learning new plays both on offense and defense,” he said.
Madrigal, who brought plenty of energy at both ends of the court while helping lead OHS to two straight district championships, said he hopes he can provide a spark to the team when needed.
“As a freshman I believe I will have a role of bringing that energy to the floor when it comes time to play,” he said.
In his senior year at OHS, Madrigal, a guard, led the Brahmans in scoring (10.8 ppg) and three-pointers (45). He was one of the main reasons the team compiled a sizzling 49-8 record the past two seasons.
The start of North Park’s season, which would normally be in early November, has been delayed due to the pandemic. The team plays most of its games in Illinois; last season it had a few games in Michigan and Wisconsin.
As for academics, Madrigal initially planned to be a sports management major but now is considering exercise science.
The Floridian has been warned about Chicago’s winter weather and he’s prepared.
“I have been told about how cold the weather can get,” he said, “but it’s okay because I like the cold weather.”