SAN DIEGO — A year before LeBron James posted an Instagram picture of the bright neon sign “I Am More Than An Athlete”, imploring his counterparts around the globe to not shut up and dribble but strive to make an impact in their communities, Xavier Silas was already hard at work living The King’s Gospel.
Silas, currently signed to a training camp deal with the Denver Nuggets, founded Give Sports in 2017, a Denver-based youth basketball program for kids ages 6-17 that doubles as a philanthropic organization that requires its players to participate in charitable work within their communities. Over the past year, Give has morphed into a full-blown AAU program with nationally-ranked teams in both the 7th and 8th grades.
“A lot of people talk about being more than an athlete,” Silas told BSN Denver. “I’ve actually put some things in place off the court that are making an impact in the community. Being more than an athlete is something that I live by and represent every day.”
Growing up in Texas, a recruiting hotbed for powerhouse college programs, Silas was miffed when he relocated to Colorado full-time with his wife and two kids and found that the state he planned to raise his family wasn’t getting the national respect he felt it deserved.
College coaches from around the country typically overlook Colorado in the recruiting cycle. So Silas, who played two seasons of college ball at the University of Colorado, set out to change their perception.
“Things have been done a certain way before we got here and we’ve ended up with Colorado not being respected,” Silas said. “There’s talent here but there are not many programs that produce talent year in and year out. I don’t want my two sons to grow up in a place that’s not respected when it comes to basketball.”
With Give and other Colorado AAU mainstays like Billups Elite, Colorado Hawks and Colorado Chaos continuing to grow, the state’s basketball image is slowly starting to change. Elite players from Wisconsin, Arizona and Utah are flocking to Colorado to play for Give. Silas’ seventh-grade team is ranked No. 1 in the region. His eighth-grade team is ranked No. 2 in the region and was invited to the prestigious MADE Hoops Nike tournament in Augusta, Georgia.
With those two clubs leading the way, Give has formed teams across more age groups who will start playing on the AAU circuit next summer.
The other element to the program’s curriculum has its players give back to their communities. Last year Silas’ eighth-grade team served meals at the Denver Rescue Mission. They’ve also volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House, Food Bank of the Rockies and wrote Christmas letters to kids at the local Children’s Hospital who weren’t able to be home for the holidays. Give recently organized a backpack and school supply drive for the Smith Agency, an organization that helps special needs kids and adults.
“It’s called Give because it’s better to give than receive,” Silas said. “A lot of these kids growing up who are ranked in the state and nationally are celebrities in their own right among their peers. That can go to your head. The one way to put everything in perspective is to do charitable work so we require that from top to bottom.”
Give’s players come from all different backgrounds. Silas’ other business, Sparkly Clean Mobile Auto Detailing, which he started with a friend from high school, helps subsidize the costs of Give for underprivileged kids. Silas credits his father, former San Antonio Spurs guard James Silas, who for 24 years has directed the Austin Midnight Basketball Program, for his philanthropic mindset.
Silas runs Give to help kids pursue their basketball dreams while still chasing his own. After going undrafted in 2011, he played internationally in France, Argentina, Israel, Greece and Germany. Silas played for three different G League teams over the last eight years before getting a call-up from the Celtics late last season, which marked 2,082 days between his NBA debut with the 76ers in 2012 and his next NBA game. He’s also played in the BIG3 in each of the last two summers and was named to USA’s 2018 World Cup qualifying roster.
The six years Silas spent waiting for his next shot at the NBA never deterred the 30-year-old sharpshooter who hit 38 percent of his three last season for the G League’s Northern Arizona Suns. Silas showed off that stroke this summer at Pepsi Center, where the Nuggets held open gyms run by player development coach John Beckett for an invite-only list of high-level players throughout the offseason who live in the Denver area, like Jimmer Fredette and former University of Wyoming standout Josh Adams.
Silas played well over the summer and his agent approached him a few weeks ago to gauge his interest in joining the Nuggets for training camp. Even though Denver has a full roster with 17 guaranteed contracts, including two two-way players signed for this season, the decision to officially join the Nuggets for the next few weeks was an easy one considering what Silas has invested in Give and how tied he is to the area.
“Every time you set out to do something and you’ve put a tremendous amount of time and effort into getting somewhere, you’re going to take the opportunities that make sense for you,” Silas said. “A lot of the things are out of my hands. The money situations, the roster situations, a lot of it is out of my hands. You have to still go and make the best of every opportunity because anything can happen. Time and time again guys who were undrafted or drafted late, have prominent roles on NBA teams because they stuck with it.”
Playing with Denver throughout the preseason puts Silas in a unique position. He can show his kids firsthand what they can achieve with hard work and dedication while also chasing his own NBA dreams, which he’s still hoping someday will come true.
“I want to show them that they’re never going to accomplish anything if they don’t stick with it,” Silas said. “Hopefully they can see that from watching my journey.”