Undrafted free agents have something to prove; they were passed on by every team on draft night – not once, but twice. Many undrafted free agents find themselves in an NBA training camp, but usually have difficulty doing enough to warrant a roster spot, or even a spot on the team's D-League affiliate. There are reasons no team felt inclined to spend a draft pick on these players, whether it's character concerns, health problems, fatal flaws in their game, or all of the above. So, when the undrafted free agents make an appearance in training camp, they need qualities that set them a part – force the team to take a chance on you.
After the lengthy lockout the Sixers invited three players to camp. Antonio Anderson from Memphis University, Mike Tisdale from Illinois University and Xavier Silas from Northern Illinois. You may remember Silas' name from a piece I wrote this summer. The Sixers had their eye on him prior to the draft, brought him in for a workout, and probably considered taking him with their second round pick. Immediately following the draft the Sixers committed to Silas, giving him an informal offer to attend training camp once the lockout ended. Silas played overseas in France during the lockout, but as soon as it ended came back to the States, ran with the Sixers in training camp, and played a few minutes in the team's first pre-season game. The coaches have had nothing but good things to say about him, there's been numerous articles written about his increasing chances of making the Sixers, and stories about him running with the second team.
All in all, Silas has had a nice training camp. If the Sixers keep 15 players, it's highly likely he'll make the team in some capacity, whether he's the twelfth man, or sitting on the end of the bench in street clothes. What has he done to set himself apart as an undrafted free agent coming into camp with something to prove? And what did the Sixers see in Silas that they liked, even prior to the draft? Make the jump to find out what Xavier is all about. He's a cool character, with a cool story.
Since I wrote that piece back in July Xavier and I have been in periodic contact via Twitter, E-Mail and phone. A few months ago Silas participated in the "Lockout League" which just so happened to be in my home town of Las Vegas. I was credentialed for the event, and when I wasn't having epic sit-down conversations with Marreese Speights I was spending time getting to know Xavier.
When I met Xavier he was very outgoing, humble and a genuinely nice person. One of my least favorite things about talking to pro athletes as "a reporter" or "blogger" is the invisible wall they seem to have up, and when they speak only in cliches and politically correctness. Xavier was different – very well-spoken and and intelligent guy. I'm sure the way Xavier carries himself is one of the reasons the Sixers coveted him so much following the draft, especially with the way Doug Collins operates. Silas just seems like one of "Doug's kind of guys".
Speaking of Collins, the Sixers coach played in the NBA during the same time as Xavier's dad, James, for one season, 1980-1981 – Collins last NBA season. Xavier estimated that Coach Collins has called him by his dad's name about "80 percent of the time" during X's time with the Sixers. When he told me this my first thought was "that seems like an extremely Doug Collins thing to do".
Having grown up around the NBA is another thing that sets Silas apart. His dad played 10 seasons in the league and I'm sure Xavier has learned a lot from both his dad, and the experience of being an NBA son. His parents must've done something right, because another thing that stands out when you talk to Xavier is the value he places on hard work and always out-working his peers. It's one thing to say you out-work your opponents, it's another thing to do it. Two years ago Xavier stress fractured his wrist from shooting too many jumpers per week, so I'd say he walks the walk.
For a little perspective on Silas' game on the court, he averaged 22 points per game at Northern Illinois last season with impressive shooting percentages of 46/43/85. He also had a TS% of 60 and DREB% of 13.2 – both impressive for a shooting guard.
Xavier's basketball background, unique personality and work ethic have combined to make him stand out amongst the crowd. Now only time will tell if it's enough to make an NBA roster. I think it is, whether it's the Sixers or another team. Below is a cool little interview I did with Xavier recently. It's an interesting read, and yes top 10 naps were discussed. You'll also notice the difference in X's answers and Speezy's.
Liberty Ballers: You seem like a very philosophical guy on Twitter, and claim to only quote yourself. Is there a story behind that? Have you always been a thinker?
I used to write long away messages on aim back in prep school and college when everyone had a tmobile sidekick. I'd call it "The mind of Xavier Silas". I've always been a thinker, and I've grown and realized my experiences were meant to not only teach me to be better but those around me to be better as well.
LB: On a scale of 1-10 rate how good your jump shot currently is?
When I work out with my dad and guru Sundance Wicks we expect to make at least 70% of shots throughout our workouts. I put a lot of mental and physical work into my jumpshot. I actually stress fractured my wrist 2 years ago from shooting too many jumpers a week. So I am pretty confident in my shot.
LB: What can you bring to the Sixers organization? The answer can be on the court, off the court, or both. It's up for interpretation.
I'm going to bring myself. I pride myself in working harder than others, in being resilient and finding the strength to be optimistic even in the midst of darkness. Those who know me know I'm the kind of person that doesn't mind dedicating everything to what I believe in.
LB: Sixers players are known for taking great naps, so so you remember the best nap you've ever taken? If so, describe it.
Probably on a plane back from Beijing. I slept for 11 of the 13 hours. It was great.
LB: Assuming the Sixers keep you around, do you prefer to travel with the team and learn from the guys/current coaching staff, or polish your game in the D-League?
I prefer to do what coach Collins thinks I should do. I want to become the best I can be and being a believer of experience I know that coach Collins knows how I can better than I do.
LB: What was the biggest difference between playing in the NCAA and France?
Everything. It's professional basketball. And we were playing in the eurocup as well. Talent level, speed, everything was different.
LB: What's one thing you'd like Sixers fans to know about Xavier Silas?
That's a tough question. If I had to choose I'd pick my story. Where I've come from and what I've been through. My path hasn't always been this bright, like everyone else there were plenty of obstacles along the way.
LB: What's your favorite type of music?
I like a lot of different types. My dad used to listen to a lot of Motown so I like that. R&B and Hip Hop. House is Slowly becoming my favorite.
LB: Who are your five favorite rappers in the present?
Drizzy, Kanye, Wayne, Jay Z and Every Texas Rapper... I've got to represent
LB: Are there any interesting stories or tidbits you can share about a Sixers player or coach based on your short stint in training camp? Don't say anything that's going to get you in trouble.
Not yet its really just been a lot of working out and learning. Though coach Collins calls me "James" (my dads name) about 80% of the time. I guess I remind him of my dad , they say I look just like him. And James is my middle name so I don't really mind.
LB: Have you gotten close with any of the current Sixers? I know you've had a previous relationship with Brackins ...
Yeah, younger guys like Jrue, Lou, ET, Jodie and Craig for sure. Everyone is real cool and we get along real well.
LB: Who's the funniest of the Sixers players in your opinion, thus far?
I'd say ET for sure. But Nocioni sounds like scarface So that's pretty funny too.
LB: Is there any players, past of presence, you model your game after?
I learned a lot from my dad so I'm sure I resemble him. I've always taken little things from different people and put it in my game. So I guess my game is a little bit promiscuous in that sense.
I'd like to thank Xavier for his time, and it's been a pleasure getting to know him the past few months. He'll have one more opportunity to solidify a roster spot with the Sixers during the second pre-season game against the Wizards tomorrow night at 7 EST. Look for him during the game, #25. In the meantime, hit him up on Twitter @xaviersilas. He's very good at following back and he always has something interesting to say. Also, check out this youtube video of X discussing the importance of looking good, feeling good, and playing good before his pre-draft workout/interview with the Sixers.