James Silas' son Xavier

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James Silas' son Xavier

Postby rlee » Mon Feb 22, 2010 6:59 pm

Generation X
You probably haven't heard of him, you might have heard of his father, either way, you should get to know Xavier Silas of Northern Illinois.

Basketball Times Online

CHARLESTON, IL. – The X Man was in the house.

And that meant Eastern Illinois’ four-game winning streak might be in jeopardy if the Panthers couldn’t slap the handcuffs on Northern Illinois’ leading scorer. With his smooth-as-silk moves, the leaping ability of a kangaroo, and a scoring repertoire as creative as a stand-up comic’s, Xavier Silas can make the ill-prepared hurt.

Silas is many weapons in one package, an athletic combination of height, muscle and quickness whose strides eat up ground like Secretariat. However, playing for the Mid-American Conference Huskies, following a transfer, a sit-out year, and for a team struggling for its identity, he may be one of the finest college players in the land below radar.

Averaging a smidgeon under 20 ppg., the 6-foot-5 junior guard has the skills and size to stand out among the other nine players on the court even when he isn’t the focus of play. He is blessed with a pure athleticism that draws the spotlight like a magnet to a refrigerator even when others around him are playing well.

It is a little bit like being the brightest diamond in the jewelry store case.

Part of it must be genes. Silas is the son of James Silas, a former ABA and NBA all-star of the 1970s and 1980s, mostly with the San Antonio Spurs. The high-scoring guard was such a presence for the Spurs that his No. 13 jersey was retired.

The younger Silas was raised in Austin, Tex. and as a toddler because of his retired father’s connections was allowed the run of the Spurs’ locker room mingling with players like David Robinson, Sean Elliott and George Gervin.

“They would give me their shoes,” Xavier said. “The Coyote (team mascot) would chase me around. I was really small. It was normal to me.”

James Silas, a two-time NAIA All-American good enough to average 30 ppg. for Stephen F. Austin, raised Xavier and his other children in a basketball environment, but he did not pressure them to take up the sport. X did that on his own.

“Dad actually let me get my own interest in basketball,” Xavier said. “He let me find my own way. And then he guided me.”

Xavier, the youngest of seven children, is 22, and is too young to ever see his father play a pro game live. X, often called that for short by his friends and even dad, owns a tape of James in an ABA all-star contest and watches it as much as some of his contemporaries rewind “Star Wars” flicks. Julius Erving made one of his miracle dunks in that game and young Xavier never can get over one stark change in the sport.

“The shorts were short,” he said.

Yes, that is basketball’s generational difference.

For another type of basketball movie, James Silas was on the set when comic actor Will Ferrell was filming “Semi Pro” and playing Jackie Moon, based on the 1970s ABA.

Those good old days don’t mean that much to Xavier, who is playing in the here and now and trying to find his niche. The younger Silas grew up in Austin, attended Brewster Academy in New Hampshire, and chose Colorado because he loved the city of Boulder and made a connection with Coach Ricardo Patton.

As a freshman in 2006-07, Silas averaged 12.0 and 3.7 rebounds per game for the Buffaloes, but Patton was exiled for not winning enough. Silas played another season in Boulder, averaging 9.7 ppg., but wasn’t happy. When Patton landed at Northern Illinois, Silas came too and sat out last winter.

This year he is making a splash in the MAC, where he is the second leading scorer. Asked to provide a self-scouting report, Silas said, “I think I’m a pretty good all-around player. I can shoot from outside and go to the rim. I’m coming along as a defender. I’m quick off the first step.”

Silas was teasingly told that it sounds as if he is uncoverable.

“That’s what I strive for,” he said.

Northern Illinois has a solid mix of players, many of whom can score, but who have not quite meshed. Although a sharp passer, Silas is not the main ball handler and does not run the offense. His points come in the flow of the game.

While Silas gives off the aura that he can explode at any time, his highest scoring games are 31 against Ohio University in late January, and 30 against Ball State in mid-February. He is consistently in the low to mid 20s.

The first thing Patton and his assistant coaches noticed about Silas when they spotted him playing in a summer event in Las Vegas as a high schooler was “his ability to score,” Patton said. “Having grown up in an NBA environment I thought he would have a pretty good feel for the game.

“He has a pretty good basketball IQ. That’s one of the things you don’t teach. He is relentless in his work ethic. He has lateral quickness and a big wingspan.”

Silas, according to Patton, also has a 3.6 grade point average, the highest on the team, and is assuredly a student-athlete, a tribute to the way his parents, James and wife Vanessa, emphasized the classroom.

“That says a lot about the kid and the push he received,” Patton said. “He gets it.”

Silas’ top attribute? No secret there. It’s his stylish scoring, inside and outside.

“He has the ability to score in a number of different ways,” said Patton said, comparing Silas generally to ex-Davidson star Stephen Curry, now in the NBA.

That’s a heady comparison, but Silas knows that’s where he wants to go.

“I definitely have goals,” Xavier Silas said. “I would like to be playing at the next level in a couple of years. I think everyone who is playing at this level has that dream.”

James Silas, who makes frequent trips from Texas to Illinois to watch Xavier’s games, said it’s a thrill to see him grow and improve.

“I am proud,” said the elder Silas, now 61. “Not only did I have a chance to grow up and do the things I did, but to have him come behind me and have the career he’s having is great. I’m living it all over again.”

James Silas grew up working in the cotton fields of Louisiana. Family finances were a lot better when Xavier grew up. “He went to prep schools, blah, blah, blah,” James said.

Just maybe Xavier isn’t as hungry because his upbringing was easier, but dad reminds him what he must do to succeed. “I want him to be more aggressive,” James said. “He needs to improve his defense. When you look at a great player, a great player does everything.”

It would be understandable if father and son joked about who is the best, but Xavier said that doesn’t happen.

“You can’t really tease anyone when they’ve been an all-star,” Xavier said.

And heck, James admits that his son “has longer range” shooting from outside than he did. It’s not exactly a word duel.

Barely over two minutes into the Eastern Illinois-Northern Illinois Bracketbuster game at Lantz Arena last Saturday Silas had twice passed to teammates leading to baskets and twice nailed fast-break buckets.

Panther Coach Mike Miller called time out. After studying Huskie game film this was exactly what he was worried about, Silas going off in a hurry. It was against the game-plan rules.

“They do such a good job of moving him around,” Miller said. “He’s got a knack (for scoring). He does a good job of getting contact, too. In the college game today it’s difficult to average 20 points a game.”

Silas has NFL cornerback type biceps, long arms decorated with tattoos, and long legs. His black hair is closely cropped and he has a thin black beard and mustache. If his ‘do was an Afro he would resemble Walt Frazier.

A predator always looking for a tiny opening, Silas’ long strides can eat up the court in a gallop on the fast break. In the half-court offense he is constantly running the baseline and wings to get open with occasional pause at the top of the key.

In a seesaw game of considerable entertainment for the nearly 2,000 fans, Eastern Illinois of the Ohio Valley Conference hung on for a 73-70 win to raise its record to 16-11, while Northern Illinois fell to 8-18. There have been many close-call losses for the Huskies like this one. The only real chance they have to at least jell and make noise is in early March.

“My goal now is to win the MAC tournament,” Silas said.

Against Eastern, Silas had moments of brilliance, but it was not his finest game. He scored 19 points and fouled out. Eastern’s trapping zone regularly double-teamed Silas and the strategy contained him. Many times it seemed as if it was about to bust out, but the Panthers managed to keep Silas’ output under control.

“He was kind of relegated to jump shots,” Patton said.

After a shower, Silas was wrapped up in a ski hat and team sweat suit for the bus ride back to campus that would last three-plus hours. It almost sounded restful, but Silas said it wouldn’t be.

“It’s going to be a long ride,” he said. “I won’t be able to go to sleep after a loss like this.”

Under the cloudy night sky as the bus hurtled north along I-57, there was plenty of time for the X Man to ruminate over what went wrong, but to also contemplate a future that would definitely look bright in the morning.
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Postby rlee » Sat Feb 12, 2011 2:35 pm

Posts: 7706
Joined: Mon Apr 09, 2007 5:42 pm
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