One of the best things about college basketball is watching a player develop over his career. Seeing a kid grow over four years and continue improving and evolving their game in order to reach their full potential. South Carolina Gamecocks senior Chris Silva is the embodiment of this rewarding process. He has worked over four years to add to his game, and seen his production and abilities grow each season. Silva is coming off a monster game where he set career highs in rebounds with 17, and three-pointers made with 4. The Gamecocks are 15-15 with one regular season game remaining at home with rival Georgia. With his senior season winding down, it is worth looking at Chris Silva’s evolution throughout his time in garnet and black.
The Evolution of Chris Silva
He began in Columbia as a young athletic talent, but very raw in a basketball skill sense. The native of Gabon only began playing organized basketball as a junior in high school, so he was still a novice when he arrived on campus. In his first season, Silva showed flashes of potential, but he was clearly a work in progress. His energy and athleticism were evident from the start. The hashtags SilvaSwat and SilvaSlam both became favorites of Gamecock fans on social media sites.
As a sophomore, Silva began to show progress as he stepped into a starting role. He was still mainly just a threat attacking the rim, but his awareness and positioning had begun to improve. He averaged 10 points and 6 rebounds a game for the season. Chris Silva stepped up when the postseason hit, raising his averages to 13 and 9 respectively, as the Gamecocks reached the Final Four for the first time in school history. Two of his four double-doubles as a sophomore came during the tournament run.
As a junior, it fell upon Silva to develop into the go-to scorer for Frank Martin‘s Gamecocks. The offense was planned around him, as he continued to expand his skill set. He added a mid-range jump shot to his arsenal and greatly improved his touch from the free throw line. His physical style of play leads to foul trouble for himself and opponents. He was among the nation’s leaders in free throws attempted and fouls committed. Chris Silva averaged 14.3 points and 8 rebounds per game on his way to being named 1st team All-SEC. He was also the Co-Defensive Player of the Year with Robert Williams of Texas A&M.
As Silva’s skill set has increased, his production across all areas has done so as well. The senior is closing in on 1500 points and 850 rebounds for his career. His 184 blocks are third only to Sam Muldrow and Brandon Wallace since the Gamecocks joined the SEC in 1992. He has more rebounds than any player in their 28 seasons in the conference. Chris Silva is also only three fouls away from having more than any player in Division 1 over the past ten seasons. A dubious record for sure, but one that won’t surprise anyone that has watched the physical forward play. With a strong finish, he could also be the first South Carolina player since Zam Fredrick in 1981 to be a part of four straight winning seasons. He has been a part of 82 wins in his career.
As a senior, Silva has continued to expand his game. He expanded his shooting range again, moving from the mid-range to beyond the three-point arc. After hitting only five three-pointers in his first three seasons, he has hit 18 as a senior. He is shooting 50% from the field this season, and 40% from deep. Silva leads the team with 14.3 points and 7.1 rebounds a night. The senior has 10 double-doubles this season, helping lead the Gamecocks to a 10-7 SEC record after struggling in non-conference play.
Silva is also averaging a career-high two blocks a game. His development as a defender is almost as impressive as his evolving offensive skill set. Silva has worked to become an all-around defender. He has improved his perimeter defense and his ball screen coverage. The 6’9″ forward can guard multiple positions, as well as protect the rim. He should repeat as the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Year.
His energy has always been infectious among his teammates. Whether he is making one of his patented chase-down blocks, drawing a charge, or finishing in the paint; he always seems to make big plays. His work ethic and willingness to continue adding things to his game have made him a fan favorite in Columbia. His career is winding down now, and he has just one game left in front of the home fans. Chris Silva will go down as one of the best and most productive big men in South Carolina history. His evolution from raw athletic talent to an All-SEC player is what college basketball is all about.
Embed from Getty Images