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- More from Lindsey Willhite
We don't have the greatest cell-phone connection, but James Silas' appealing laugh comes through loud and clear.
The former San Antonio Spur is almost 60 years old. His 10-year NBA/ABA career - where he made a reputation for last-minute shooting heroics - and his spectacular Afro are way in the rearview mirror.
"Oh, I'm trying to cover up spots now," Silas says, punctuating his confession with that laugh.
But Silas, though he never laces them up anymore, burns for basketball as much as ever.
Fortunately for the Austin, Texas, resident, he has an outlet for his passion in, of all places, DeKalb.
That's where his 6-foot-4 son, Xavier, is serving his transfer year after leaving Colorado and joining former Buffs coach Ricardo Patton at Northern Illinois.
"He gave it up and channels it all into me," Xavier says. "So I get all the basketball talk, all the basketball knowledge, which is good. I like it. We talk every day. Every day."
To say this bodes well for the Huskies' future is an understatement.
"Offensively, he's as good as any player we'll see in our league at his position," Patton says.
Xavier hits 3-pointers, but Dad also taught him a midrange game like he had.
"I think the hardest part of a game to defend is if you can get a midrange shot," James Silas says, "and get it from five or six different places.
"There's a lot of players that take shots. I tried to take shots that I wanted, not the ones the defense gave me."
Xavier averaged 12.0 points per game as a true freshman at Colorado in 2006-07. The Big 12 had just three freshmen who averaged more:
Texas' Kevin Durant, who was one-and-done to the NBA; Texas' D.J. Augustin, who was two-and-done to the NBA; and Iowa State's Wesley Johnson, who figured he was too good for the Cyclones and decided to transfer to nationally ranked Syracuse.
With that company in mind, why is Xavier Silas at a place like Northern Illinois, which seems on pace for its third straight year with fewer than 10 wins?
Especially since he had contact with UAB, Clemson, Providence, Houston and Florida State when it came time to transfer.
"I wanted to come somewhere where I trusted the coach," Xavier says. "The second time around, it's not time to start guessing and trying to get to know people. It's time to go ahead and go somewhere you know and get to work."
And Xavier wasted little time getting to work. He's usually the first to get to practice and the last to leave.
He's already the team leader who, even though he's in street clothes, dances around in the middle of the Huskies' huddle when they're getting fired up just before tipoff.
"He's actually been more than I thought he would be, in terms of vocal leadership," Patton says.
And Xavier has no problem naming goals for the two seasons he'll play at NIU.
"I'm going to tell you what my thing is: My thing is winning," he says. "I want to come in and I want to put that first banner up - that first MAC championship banner."
And James Silas will be along every step of the way. He plans to fly in from Texas for every game, no matter how remote the campus.
"He can't wait," Xavier said. "He's down there twiddling his thumbs, just like I am. He's anxious just like I am."