USC Men's Basketball

Chris Silva on NBA journey: ‘All I need is a chance. I promise you I won’t miss it.’

During Chris Silva’s high school years in New Jersey, the native African claims he never became a fan of the New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets or any other NBA team.

“I wasn’t really paying attention to the NBA,” Silva said. “I was focusing on my current step, which was try to get a DI scholarship.”

He grinned when he said it, though, a subtle nod to the experience he’s gained by going through this NBA Draft process once. Don’t lean toward a particular team, be open to all possibilities.

After four productive seasons in a South Carolina uniform, Silva is officially pursuing a professional career. It started Thursday when he participated in the Portsmouth (Va.) Invitational Tournament, an annual showcase for college seniors in front of both NBA and European league scouts.

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Last spring, Silva declared for the NBA Draft, had workouts with four teams and eventually returned to USC and had another All-SEC season.

“They talked a lot about my shot, my work around the basket,” Silva said Tuesday of his lessons from last year’s brief pro tour. “My junior year, all I was doing was trying to muscle everybody in the post. So they talked about facing up and all that kind of stuff, which I tried to do this year, shooting the ball more.

“I spent the summer before the season working on it and I think it paid off during the season.”

Perhaps that’s Silva’s biggest pitch to NBA teams this time around, how he went from an afterthought on the perimeter to a 50 percent 3-point shooter.

The listed 6-foot-9, 234-pounder had five career 3s (on 13 attempts) before he went 23 of 46 from beyond the arc in 2018-19. He averaged 15 points, eight rebounds and two blocks a game.

“There is some potential there,” said Sam Vecenie, who covers the draft for The Athletic. “He’s long. He can shoot it. Obviously has touch, has the ability to get a shot on the block, even. ... I do think there’s a chance that he’s a very, very good shooter.”

Silva said he worked out last spring for the Boston Celtics, Oklahoma City Thunder, Milwaukee Bucks and the Nets. What Vecenie heard back from those organizations shouldn’t shock Gamecock followers.

“The feedback I got on him,” Vecenie said, “was, ‘That dude was one of the strongest people we had in workouts. We understand he’s 6-9, we know he’s 235 pounds or whatever, but he just established position whenever he wanted, even against other high-level prospects.’

“So that kind of stuff I think is important, that kind of stuff is valuable for Chris.”

Silva isn’t bothered that’s he’s not listed listed among the top 100 prospects for the 60-pick draft by a variety of national publications, including ESPN and The Athletic.

“My personal motivation is my family back home,” Silva said, “knowing that I came from Gabon to here to accomplish this dream and it’s right here in front of my nose. So I gotta take it.”

Vecenie said Silva, in the very least, is due a tryout.

“He’s a guy that I would for sure bring in for workouts,” Vecenie said. “I would want to see him. I don’t know if he’d necessarily be a priority undrafted free agent for me necessarily, but if he’s available to me on my G League team and his agent comes to me, I’d be like, ‘Yeah, I’ll take Chris. I’d be interested in working with him.’”

All Silva wants is a shot to make it happen.

“I’m like this close from making it,” Silva said. “All I need is just a chance. And I promise you I won’t miss it.”

Andrew Ramspacher has been covering college athletics since 2010, serving as The State’s USC men’s basketball beat writer since October 2017. His work has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors, Virginia Press Association and West Virginia Press Association. At a program-listed 5-foot-10, he’s always been destined to write about the game. Not play it.
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