Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
South Carolina’s Silva Not Forgetting Jersey Roots While at the Final Four
By DENNIS CHAMBERSGLENDALE, Ariz. — From Greenville, S.C. to New York City to Glendale, Chris Silva has logged a lot of miles over the last few weeks. Hopping from city to city as South Carolina advances throughout the NCAA Tournament has been quite the experience for the sophomore big man.
But don’t think Silva has forgotten about his ties back to Roselle, N.J., and don’t think they’ve forgotten about him, either.
“It’s been crazy,” Silva said about the Roselle Catholic support. “Everyone calling me, texting me and telling me from home that they’re proud of me. So, it’s been awesome.”
Silva, of course, was part of the 2015 Roselle Catholic Tournament of Champions team that featured Kentucky point guard Isaiah Briscoe. Life was good for Silva at the N.J. high school powerhouse. Moving from Gabon, Africa, Silva joined a new country, a new basketball team, and a new life.
In hopes of crafting a legitimate future playing basketball, Silva would work towards that goal learning the game from head coach Dave Boff and assistant coach Tommy Sacks and by forming a relationship with Briscoe, whom Silva refers to as his brother.
As a result of his progression while at Roselle Catholic, Silva earned a scholarship to play at South Carolina under Frank Martin. From Africa to New Jersey, to South Carolina, Sliva was on the move again. The transition prompted the next wave of Silva’s journey to becoming an impactful basketball player. Along with that came Martin’s hard-nosed coaching style.
“When I came I was looking forward to it, but I had to adjust to it,” Silva said of Martin’s demanding coaching style. “Because when I was at Roselle Catholic, my coach Dave Boff, was a quiet guy. He likes to talk quietly, he let you understand what he needs completely different from coach Frank. He’s gonna let you know loudly, but you don’t have to see where he’s giving you a message.”
Martin echoed Silva’s assessment of how he deals with players, and the Gamecocks’ head coach even admitted to riding Silva a bit too hard this season. But how Silva responded to the harsh criticism is what is leading to his current success.
“I was real hard on him at practice in the middle of the year and I could tell that I beat him up a little bit too much,” Martin said. “And the next day I called him in. He said, ‘Coach, that’s why I came here, because I want you to help me be great.’ I felt better. I said, ‘But still I don’t need to beat you up that way.’ He said, ‘Don’t worry about it. We’re okay.’ And he’s phenomenal. He’s absolutely great to be around.”
Throughout South Carolina’s improbable run to the Final Four as a No. 7-seed Silva has been vital to the team’s success. Averaging 13 points and 7.7 rebounds per game over his four games in the tournament, Silva is growing into the player he left Africa four years ago to become. In their marquee upset win over No. 2-seed Duke, South Carolina got 17 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks from Silva.
But Martin believes that tough love is what Silva needs.
“I couldn’t be prouder of Chris,” Martin said. “Chris has been — and I said this last, after the Duke game, I believe. I’ve been harder on him than anyone on our team, because we need him to be real good for our team to be as good as it can be.”
The continuing progression of Silva hasn’t led to forgetting his roots, though. Silva visited Roselle Catholic after his freshman year at South Carolina to work out with 5-star big man Naz Reid and talk to some players.
“A little bit yeah,” Silva said about returning to his high school to offer advice to their current players. “I think my freshman year I went back during the summer and tried to talk to them. I spent a couple days with him and working out with (Reid). I talked to him about working hard and all that stuff.”
As for his relationship with Briscoe, the two remain in constant contact, especially during this tournament when there was potential that the two could’ve faced off against each other in the national championship.
While two of their former players facing off for a college championship would’ve been a major boost for Roselle Catholic, Silva thinks it would’ve been just as important for the two former teammates.
“Not only for the high school,” Silva said. “You know me and Isaiah are like brothers and stuff, so we wanted to compete against each other in the finals. We talked about it, but it wasn’t just for the school it was for what it would mean for us, because we’re brothers.”
Photo: Bob Dannon/USA Today
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