Interest between South Carolina and Wildens Leveque was mutual to the point where the 6-foot-10 forward spent parts of the past five weeks reviewing USC game film. By the time he committed to the Gamecocks on Friday, Leveque already had a specific vision of what he could look like in garnet and black.
His model wears No. 30 and has been bending rims at Colonial Life Arena and beyond for the better part of the past three seasons.
“When you see someone that’s like you and you’ve seen what that staff’s done with that person,” said Tim Nelson, “it’s easier for you to picture yourself in that setting. Wildens looked at all the players and Chris Silva was the one that really stood out to him and looked very similar to him.
“Very, very similar.”
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Nelson is Leveque’s AAU coach for the Mass Rivals program in Massachusetts. He was there in Los Angeles over the summer when USC coaches Frank and Chuck Martin first spotted Leveque at a tournament. A connection was born, sparking not only a relationship, but a study of sorts.
Nelson wanted Leveque to research the Martins and how they ran their team. He wanted Leveque to know about South Carolina, the school itself, and how that would fit him academically. And he wanted Leveque to know about what kind of player he could develop into as a Gamecock.
That’s when the duo discovered Silva.
“We’ve watched a lot of video on Chris Silva and when you watch him, it looks like what Wildens is striving to become,” Nelson told The State on Friday. “He’s got all that. He can run it, he can catch it, he’s a big presence inside so if it’s around the rim, it’s definitely a dunk.”
Silva is a listed 6-9, 223-pounder who’s entering his senior year at South Carolina with a good chance to finish among the school’s all-time top 10 in points, rebounds, blocks, free throw attempts, free throws made and games played. He’s the reigning co-defensive player of the year in the SEC and will likely be playing in the NBA in 2019-20.
How the Gamecocks replace all of that will be a challenge, sure, but Nelson believes they took a big step toward it Friday.
“This kid has a lot of the same attributes as Chris,” Nelson said of Leveque. “Obviously he’s 225 (pounds) or so, but he’s going to end up bigger than Chris. He’s probably gonna end up like a 250-pound kid when this is all said and done. So I think Chris is about 226-230, something like that. So he’s going to be a little bit bigger than him. He might even be a little bit taller.”
On the recruiting trail, Leveque was told by Frank Martin that he’s viewed as a Silva-like prospect.
“I like the evolution of Silva, how he’s just gotten better every year and now he has a chance to play in the NBA,” Leveque told Sports Talk’s Phil Kornblut. “I like how they’ve got their bigs running the floor, give them a break whenever they’re tired, play with a high motor. I play pretty similar.”
Leveque, a three-star recruit who averaged 14 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks per game for Gould Academy in Maine last season, picked Carolina over finalists VCU and UMass.
Perhaps the Rams and Minutemen lacked a playing example like Silva.
“That’s a big reason why Wildens was very interested in going to South Carolina,” Nelson said. “Because he saw a kid that reminded him of himself, the version he wants to be.”