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Redemption for Silas Melson

What a difference a season makes

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-West Regional Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Silas Melson has been their best 3-point shooter during the Tournament.” Huh, Jim Nance? Silas Melson, the guys who’s 3-pointers were so rare fans during the game chat equate them with a natural blackjack. I had to catch myself, I was thinking last year’s Melson.

Not this year’s new, improved and very good version. I looked it up and percentage wise Nance was correct.

NCAA 3’s

Player 3PA/3PM PCT.
Player 3PA/3PM PCT.
Melson 5 for 12 0.417
Mathews 17 for 45 0.378
Perkins 9 for 25 0.36
NWG 8 for 23 0.348

Last year Silas shot .386 overall, .323 from three and .769 from the line. This year those numbers were .449, .391 and 84%. Why the big difference?

In a Feb 14, 2017 Spokesman Review article by Jim Meehan, Silas attributes his improvement to “mental toughness........if you don’t have the mental aspect ready for games you’re not going to perform at your best.” Well Silas, I hope you’re majoring in Sports Psychology ‘cause if you can duplicate your turnaround in other players you’ll have a great career when your playing days are over.

With his 43-inch vertical leap, Silas was the most athletic of the four guards in last season’s rotation. Controlling the athleticism instead of relying on it was one of the keys in his turnaround. During his freshman year he referred to himself as a volume scorer and his sophomore season’s shot selection reflected that mentality. This year he bought into the system, don’t shoot unless you’ve squared up and you are open. If not, pass. He had 30 assists last season, 58 this year.

His mental toughness and newfound confidence were probably best reflected at the free throw line. He shot free throws in 20 games last season shooting 1.00% in 12 of those games. His worst outings were shooting .500 twice in games where he was 1 for 2. In a season where free throw shooting questionable, there was always something reassuring watching Silas step up to the line, especially in pressure situations.

Even when his offensive performance was at its worst, his ability to play shut-down defense was never in question. Check out this block against South Carolina:

Defense is the area where his superior athleticism really stands out. I sometimes found ignoring the ball during games to marvel at how well he stayed with the guy he was guarding. His lateral movement and quickness are impressive.

My how time flies. Seems like only yesterday we were watching Silas have to give up his redshirt season to make his debut at Madison Square Garden. Next year he will be a senior. Considering the dramatic improvement in his offensive numbers this past season, there’s no reason to doubt he can be even better next year. Regardless of whether NWG stays or goes, expect Silas to start next year, play smart and efficient offense, continue to play shut-down defense and to exert a larger leadership role.