Brian Lester, NCAA.com
Today, even as he has emerged as one of the top college basketball players in the nation, Northern Illinois’ Xavier Silas turns to his father, former NBA star James Silas, for advice.
The elder Silas played in the ABA and NBA, including five seasons with the San Antonio Spurs after the two leagues merged in the late 1970s. His No. 13 jersey was the first to ever be retired by the Spurs.
“A basketball season is such a roller coaster, and because my dad played 11 years in the league, he has seen it all,” Silas said. “It was nice having him around while growing up because he taught me so much about the game. He still helps me now. He’ll give me pointers and I can turn to him when I have problems.”
Silas has taken the advice to heart and has used it to his advantage. And while he does play under the radar at a school that sits in the heart of Illinois cornfields, the 6-foot-5, 198-pound senior guard doesn’t mind being outside the spotlight.
He merely goes about his business with relentless determination. He is averaging a cool 24.4 points per game, flirting with the top spot in the nation in scoring average, and has drained 19 shots from beyond the arc. He is shooting 47 percent from the field, has dished out 19 assists and has tallied 13 steals.
“I worked a lot with assistant coach Sundance Wicks over the summer and tweaked every part of my game,” Silas said. “I feel like I’ve become a more complete player. When you put in the time to improve yourself, good things are going to happen.”
Silas has gone above and beyond to make himself a better basketball player. He has sacrificed time over the past two summers to work out with San Francisco trainer Frank Matrisciano, who has an impressive client list that includes Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers.
The grueling training sessions pushed his body to the limit. Running up and down stairs and hills of sand will do that to an athlete. He also spent hours playing ball, fine-tuning his skills against college and NBA players.
Silas believes the training strengthened him both physically and mentally.
“Those workouts….I can’t explain them. You have to experience it to really understand how tough they were,” Silas said. “They really improved my mental toughness. That was probably the biggest benefit.”
Silas is from Austin, Texas and gained a wealth of basketball knowledge from his father, a two-time NAIA All-American at Stephen F. Austin and a two-time ABA All-Star.
Xavier soon began his own journey to stardom, starting with a prep career at Stephen F. Austin High School. He averaged 23.7 points and 8.4 rebounds per game as a senior. He also played one season at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire before taking his talents to Colorado.
While at CU, he started 36 games in two seasons and dropped in 12 points per outing as a freshman. A year later, he poured in 9.7 points per contest and scored a season-high 24 points against Florida A&M. He had a stretch that season where he scored in double figures in six consecutive games.
“It was a good experience and I did pretty well,” Silas said. “I had a chance to play against great competition, but when coach (Ricardo) Patton left for NIU, I decided to follow him. I liked his style of play and wanted to stick with him.”
Because of NCAA transfer rules, Silas had to sit out the 2008-09 season at NIU. When he finally had a chance to play for the Huskies, he fractured his right hand in the season opener against Northwestern. The injury sidelined him for five games.
“That was tough to deal with, especially when I had waited so long to play” Silas said. “But I battled through it and put it behind me. Things worked out.”
Silas started 25 games for the Huskies last season and was usually in a zone. He lit up opponents for 20 points or more 10 times and scored in double figures 19 times. He was a force on the boards as well, grabbing 132 rebounds.
His performance last season was good enough to earn him honorable mention All-MAC honors.
Not only has Silas shined on the hardwood, but he has excelled in the classroom as well. He earned his degree earlier this month and noted that completing his college education was one of the reasons he decided to return to school rather than take a chance in the NBA draft. Silas was named to the Academic All-MAC team last season.
“Coach Patton always stresses the importance of academics. My mom pushed me to do well in school, too. I really had no choice but to be successful in the classroom. I always strived to do well in class and in sports. I’m proud of what I have accomplished.”
Silas still has more goals on the horizon, starting with leading the Huskies to a MAC championship. NIU was 10-20 last season and is off to a slow start this year, winning only three of its first 10 games.
“I want to win a conference title and I believe we have the talent to do it,” Silas said. “We just have to work hard and continue to improve as a team to accomplish the goal.”
Silas hopes to follow in his father’s footsteps and play in the NBA once his career at NIU is over. He even wears the same number his dad did as a pro. For now, he is happy being back at NIU.
“I feel like I made the right decision by coming back,” Silas said. “I’m focused on being an all-around good player and helping our team be successful. The NBA will still be there when I’m done with school.”