When Lisa Silva saw her son out on the court for the first time this year, she cried.
By her own account, seeing Nate Stitchell out there on the court once again was an emotional moment for her, but something was different. Instead of the Keene State Owls uniform she has grown accustomed to seeing her son dressed in, he wore a suit, and he wasn’t out running from stripe to stripe putting up jump shots and layups; he was pacing behind the KSC bench, coaching.
The journey up to that point is why Silva said tears were coming from her eyes.
That journey began when Stitchell came home with a sign-up form for his town-league basketball team. Lisa said she was on her way out the door when Stitchell brought up the opportunity, and with the okay from his parents, he went to work on what would become Stitchell’s passion. This passion would later land him a scholarship to play at Mercy College in New York before landing with the Owls for his final two years as a collegiate player.
Stitchell admits that he didn’t get there alone, however his mother, who works as a nurse, would work multiple jobs for long hours and still find a way to get her son to practice, to see him play in a game or get him those new basketball sneakers he needed or the camps he attended to hone his skills. “I worked my schedule around my boys, around Nathan, that was my future,” Silva said.
That dedication to family rubbed off on Stitchell, according to his mother. After his grandfather passed away and his grandmother was diagnosed with cancer, he immediately packed a bag, basketball sneakers included, and went to go help take care of her. All at the same time he was trying to balance school and basketball with the priorities of his family. His grandmother has since passed away, but Stitchell credited both of his grandparents, along with his with supporting him and pays tribute to them with their names written both on his arm and on his basketball sneakers.
“My grandparents were extremely hard-working. They helped raise me. I owe them a lot of the credit. They believed in my brother and I, along with my mom believing in us as well,” Stitchell stated.
After keeping his word to his mother and earning a basketball scholarship to Mercy College, Stitchell decided to leave the division one school to come to KSC, where he eventually took over as starting point guard for the Owls. However, according to Stitchell, more family medical problems made him consider taking a step back from the sport of basketball.
His mother was diagnosed with cancer, but despite this, Stitchell played. In his senior year, he helped his team win a Little East Conference (LEC) championship and an appearance in the NCAA tournament’s Sweet 16 round. He did this all while leading the LEC in steals and leading the team in points at the same time, according to the Keene Owls website.
Silva said she would go to games in her condition, even after receiving chemotherapy the same day and fighting the side effects of the treatment. She said that seeing her son out on the court made it all worth it.
Men’s basketball coach Ryan Cain said that Stitchell was the type of player every coach wishes for.
“Nate, as a player, was basically…a coach’s dream,” Cain said.
Cain added that Stitchell acted as somewhat of a coach while he was playing guard for the Owls. “…I think ultimately everyone was on the same page because of the leadership he provided,” said Cain.
Now that he’s hung up his Owls jersey, both Cain and current KSC student athletes have seen the benefits of having Stitchell on the bench early on in the season. “I actually really like him as a coach. He pushes me. He knows all of our tendencies. He’s played with us before. He’s able to see different things in [a] different perspective, in a different way… he’s been in our position,” senior basketball player Rodney Jean-Marie said.
Still, Silva said that her son was still out there practicing his dribbling skills with his teammates before the first game.
“He was the only coach out there dribbling a basketball between his legs in a suit,” Silva joked.
Stitchell is still playing semi-professional basketball while working toward his master’s degree.
Stitchell said that his dedication to the game and his desire to stay involved in the game comes down to his passion and paying homage to those who can’t be in his position.
“I do it because I love it. A lot of my friends that have recently passed away will never get the chance and where I’m from (Rhode Island), nobody gets these chances.”
Jacob Barrett can be contacted at Jbarrett@kscequinox.com