USC Men's Basketball

Why one projected first round pick sees Chris Silva joining him in the NBA

How Frank Martin is helping Chris Silva during NBA process

Former South Carolina basketball player Chris Silva speaks to the media after working out for the Charlotte Hornets on June 4, 2019.
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Former South Carolina basketball player Chris Silva speaks to the media after working out for the Charlotte Hornets on June 4, 2019.

A former SEC rival of Chris Silva’s was his teammate Tuesday.

While Daniel Gafford went from cone to cone, catching and shooting 3-pointers, Silva stood near the basket, clapped his hands and shouted encouragement. The Razorback and Gamecock were in similar Charlotte Hornet gear, trading their red and garnet for teal and purple for an NBA draft workout.

“It’s a good thing seeing SEC in the building,” Gafford said in the Spectrum Center practice facility. “I knew I had to bring it because Chris is going to bring it every time. Every time he comes in, it’s nothing but energy — whether he’s encouraging you or going after you.”

Gafford and Silva faced each other three times over Gafford’s two seaons with Arkansas. The Razorbacks took two of the matchups, but Silva scored more points (39-27) and grabbed more rebounds (25-15).

But now it’s Gafford with an edge. The 6-foot-11, 237-pound center is projected as a late first/early second round pick on June 20. He earned an NBA combine invitation. Silva, meanwhile, continues his fight for buzz. A measured 6-foot-10, 227-pounder at last month’s Pro Basketball Combine in California, the two-time All-SEC first teamer is not popping up on mock drafts. His best route might be through a Summer League team and into the G League.

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Tuesday was Silva’s third workout with an NBA team. He’ll be in front of the Kings in Sacramento on Thursday.

“I’m a God believer,” Silva said. “So I think everything happens for a reason. God has a plan for me, and I’m just going to follow it.”

The portion of Tuesday’s workout open to media included Silva and Gafford working on the same basket, trading long-range shots.

After a non-existent perimeter game for three seasons (see 13 attempts), Silva shot 50 percent (23 of 46) from deep as a senior at USC.

“From my freshman year to the my senior year, Frank (Martin) always told me to shoot the ball,” Silva said. “But I wasn’t confident. So I went to the gym and started shooting the ball, and I started doing it in the game. ... Going to a level like this (NBA), people on the perimeter are like 7-feet, 7-4 now, 7-5, so at 6-10, you’re going to have do things that you don’t do in the post. Dribbling, shooting, all that kind of stuff.”

Silva tried showing off a complete game Tuesday against a familiar face — and one of the best big men in the draft.

“He’s long, lanky,” Silva said of Gafford. “He taught me a lot in the post. He drove me back to the fundamentals. You gotta box out, you gotta push him out of the paint, do the little things.”

Gafford said Tuesday wasn’t the last time he’ll compete with Silva. He sees the two matching again in the NBA.

“I see that,” Gafford said, “and I’m going to look forward to it because Chris is the kind of guy who goes after every shot. He goes after every block. Sometimes he might be foul-prone, but he understands that and he can fix and adjust to it at the same time.

“When Chris gets in a zone, nothing’s going in, nothing’s going in the paint at all. He’s locking down defensively on the outside, he’s locking defensively on the inside. In transition, he’s blocking shots.”

The draft is June 20.

“I’m a little nervous,” Silva said. “ ... It’s like (16) days away. Every time a day goes by, my heart beats faster.”

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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