About this time last year, as players were getting ready for the inaugural BIG3 Draft, Xavier Silas couldn’t help thinking about the future. He envisioned a successful run in the BIG3, which would catch the attention of scouts and earn him a spot on an NBA roster.
It didn’t happen as fast as he might have hoped, but Silas is finally making his return to the NBA. On Monday, news broke that he will sign a 10-day contract with the Boston Celtics. He is the first BIG3 player to officially return to the NBA.
As Silas himself pointed out on Twitter, it’s been 2,082 days since his last NBA stint. But who’s counting?
#2082 days of waiting, hoping, wishing, and praying. It’s okay to fail but it’s never okay to give up. https://t.co/s4HQRO8gER— XavierSilasGives (@XavierSilas) March 27, 2018
Silas, who was undrafted out of Northern Illinois, signed with the Philadelphia 76ers in the final week of the 2011-12 season and played in two games. In the summer of 2012, he put in a solid performance in the NBA summer league for the 76ers. But in the final game of the summer, Silas was accidentally elbowed in the head by a teammate, crashing to the floor. He suffered a concussion and sinus fractures.
“For a guy like him, literally the door was cracked open, he had a chance to kick it in,” said Joe Connelly, who coached Silas when he played in The Basketball Tournament. “And all of a sudden an injury robbed him of that opportunity.”
In subsequent years, Silas played professionally overseas and in the NBA Developmental League. He was actually the youngest player drafted in the BIG3 last season – he didn’t turn 30 until earlier this year.
Silas was a first-round pick in the 2017 BIG3 draft, taken fourth overall by Tri-State. Because of his performance in the BIG3 Combine – along with his self-confidence – he thought he might get picked ahead of some more recognizable names in the draft.
“I wasn’t that surprised just because of how I played and how I was feeling out there,” Silas said after the draft. “I was actually surprised I went that low.”
Silas was traded to the Ball Hogs after Week 3 and got better as the season went on. After scoring a season-best 20 points in the regular-season finale, he finished his inaugural BIG3 campaign averaging 9.3 points per game. He was one of just seven players in the league to make at least two 4-point shots.
And Silas has been busy since the end of the BIG3 season. In addition to playing 43 games for the Northern Arizona Suns of the NBA G League (averaged 18.4 ppg and was eighth in the league in 3-pointers), he was part of the USA Basketball World Cup Qualifying Team that played Cuba and Puerto Rico in February. It was there that Silas caught the eye of USA head coach Jeff Van Gundy.
“In my short time with him, he’s a tremendous pro, gets himself ready to play and it shows,” Van Gundy said of Silas after USA’s Feb. 23 win over Cuba, adding that he was surprised Silas wasn’t in the NBA. “I love his approach, I love his passion. He’s got every intangible characteristic that you need.”
While Silas is the first BIG3 player to return to the NBA during the regular season, his former BIG3 teammate and Ball Hogs co-captain Josh Childress had been invited to the Denver Nuggets training camp before the season.
For their part, league co-founders Ice Cube and Jeff Kwatinetz have no issues with BIG3 players making it back to the NBA. Giving these players a new platform and an opportunity to prolong their careers was a big part of the original mission.
Ice Cube reiterated that in a tweet Monday night:
Per NBA rules, Silas is not eligible to be on the Celtics’ roster when the playoffs start. So if Boston opts to keep him beyond the initial 10 days, Silas could potentially be with the team through their regular-season finale on April 11.
On one hand, that doesn’t give Silas time to prepare for the 2018 BIG3 Draft on April 12. On the other hand, his NBA excursion should have him ready to go.