Chris Silva was sitting.
Don’t get used to it.
“I just like being above the rim and fast,” the soft-spoken forward said at South Carolina’s freshman media day Thursday. “I like being faster than everybody and I just like having intensity on the court.”
The 6-foot-9 native of Gabon, by way of New Jersey, has been USC’s most prolific freshman during an 8-0 start – outside of starting point guard P.J. Dozier. He averages 6.3 points and 5.0 rebounds in 13.3 minutes per game, and leads the Gamecocks with 10 blocks.
It’s what stood out about Silva the first time any coach, teammate or opponent saw him – he lives above the rim. Silva’s frame and leaping ability has the “Carolina” on his chest grazing the iron every time he elevates. Considering he’s still raw, his upside is as vast as the space under his sneakers.
“He’s learning,” coach Frank Martin said in the preseason, “always learning. But we knew when we signed him that he had a chance to be a pretty outstanding player one day.”
He’s already become a crowd favorite. From the dunks to the leather he slaps into every corner of Colonial Life Arena. At a recent game, Silva tracked a fast break from mid-court; as soon as the guy rose to shoot, Silva was in the air and a second later, he had palmed the ball into the seats.
Silva was perched in a chair on the court Thursday, not jumping, impacting or displaying jaw-dropping athleticism. Small wonder that it didn’t look natural.
“My heart was about to fall out,” Silva said, describing his first game. “But once I got to the game, I relaxed. The first 10 minutes, I was just worrying about not making mistakes and playing hard.”
It’s been an adjustment for Silva, coming to the United States when he was 15 and learning English at the same time he was learning basketball. His gift for the game was evident early – during his prep career, he shut down a Kentucky-bound Karl-Anthony Towns for a state title and scored a combined 51 points with 29 rebounds in two games vs. Ben Simmons, this year’s LSU phenom.
There are rough moments. There are intricacies Silva has yet to learn. It’s not easy for him trying to Skype his mother across the ocean. But his teammates help him and have made the freshman comfortable.
“They just push me,” he said as Dozier pantomimed throwing him a water bottle for an alley-oop. “Whenever I think I’m dead, they just push me harder. I just get excited about it. They always have something to do, something to say.”
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