“I wish I could spend more time with my in-laws” and “Silas Melson should be hunting his shot”. Two thoughts I was pretty sure I’d never have. Both are pertinent this upcoming Thanksgiving Thursday. I know I’m right never having the former thought, but I could be wrong about the latter.
Silas returns home to Portland this week as a key member of a team that’s had an eye-popping run of success. In three years, his team has won 102 games, 10 of those in the NCAA Tournament and playing in the NCAA Championship Game. Those who saw him play at Portland’s Jefferson High School wouldn’t be surprised.
Jefferson won a State 5A Championship in 2013, Silas’s junior year and was a strong candidate to repeat the following year. Silas had already signed a letter of intent to attend Gonzaga and was compiling impressive numbers in his senior campaign. In December, Jefferson played 6A West Linn High and Silas would be guarding the eventual 6A player of the year (and current Oregon starter) Payton Pritchard. Silas scored 36 points and held Pritchard to six in the 75-66 Jefferson win. In a January game against Franklin High, he dropped 52 points. Franklin scored 40 for the game. Silas was the star of a team with a 23-1 record and looked like a lock to repeat as 5A State Champions.
Then the wheels seemingly came off. While having their pre-game meal before the State Championship game, Jefferson’s coach received a call from a school administrator saying six of his players would be immediately suspended and would miss the game. Jefferson would have to play the game, four hours later, with only six eligible players. Jefferson responded by having their “best half of the year”, hitting 9 of their first 11 threes and entering halftime with a 47-25 lead against Churchill High. As fatigue set in, Churchill mounted a furious comeback to pull within four, but Silas and his teammates held on for a 69-64 win. He followed up his second consecutive state championship being named as Oregon’s boys basketball player of the year. Finally, in the Oregon/Washington Northwest Shootout he scored 40 points on 16 for 29 shooting in the 127-114 Oregon win. You could see why Silas might think he was Superman entering Gonzaga the following summer.
That’s exactly how many of us saw Silas at his first Kraziness in 2014, dressed as Superman and winning the dunk contest.
Despite his high school achievements, Silas would take a backseat to Josh Perkins that freshman year, a more highly regarded and sought after recruit. We all know the rest of the story, Perkin’s broken jaw with Melson’s loss of the redshirt, the inconsistent sophomore year, the following year’s redemption. The path to his senior season was rocky but Silas returns to Portland in a similar situation as he left four years ago, as a leader on a highly successful team.
Yes, he’s been to Portland as a Zag before this, but this time it’s different. Instead playing a supporting role at the 4,800 seat Chiles Center against a team almost guaranteed to lose, he’ll be playing at the 20,000 seat Moda Center in a starring role against the best college basketball teams in the nation. His past two Portland trips have been pretty successful, he’s 10 for 17 from the field including a game with four assists. He seems to enjoy playing in front of family and friends.
During the shaky first half against Utah State, Silas got on other players for their defensive mistakes. He also seemed to hit the key shots every time the Zags needed one. Currently, he has eight assist on the year against only 2 turnovers and, after a tough first game, he’s been 4 for 7 from behind the arc in the past two. Oh yeah, he also hasn’t missed a free throw this year at 8 for 8. He’s been a leader both vocally and by example on the floor.
With five underclassmen receiving significant minutes, a strong senior leader who performs in crunch time will be essential for this team to succeed. Silas did it in high school and there’s no reason to expect he can’t do the same his final year in college. So yeah Silas, I’ll say it out loud (or at least in type), I look forward to seeing you hunt your shot more often this coming weekend and hope you have great success in front of your hometown crowd. If you can’t score 52 in a game, that’s fine, lower 40s or upper 30s would work.