By Kevin Thomas
PORTLAND — The youngest of seven children, Xavier Silas loved the attention.
"It was great for me," Silas said, his quick smile widening.
"I was always spoiled, but I was always afraid of what being spoiled would make me into," Silas said.
"I never wanted to be one of those spoiled kids who never worked hard. So I felt I had to work harder, just to prove that I wasn't."
Silas, a 6-foot-5 guard with the Maine Red Claws, is still working, still trying to prove himself. Like a lot of players on this NBA D-League team, Silas thinks he's close to making it to the big time.
Silas' belief is justified. He's been there, done that, albeit briefly.
Silas, 24, was a rookie last year with the Red Claws before getting a call to the Philadelphia 76ers at the end of the season.
He played two games (averaging 19.5 minutes and 5.5 points a game) and made brief appearances in two playoff games.
"Last year, going to the playoffs, being in the NBA, it has really helped me to stick with it," Silas said. "Because I got to experience it, I know I can play there. I belong there.
"If I wasn't able to do that, maybe we'd be having a different conversation."
For the second straight year, Silas attended the 76ers training camp. Like 2011, he was cut, but Silas sees a difference. Silas is a shooting guard, but he is morphing into a point guard. He's getting better and, therefore, is increasing his value.
Silas shunned offers from Europe -- he had played briefly in France before the start of the 2011-12 season -- and opted again for the D-League. He awaits the phone call that will invite him back to the NBA.
"I feel like I'm playing the best I've ever played, especially at the point guard position," Silas said. "I feel great. I'm just waiting on something to happen."
Such a wait can grow frustrating. Who wants to stay in the minors? And while Silas has nothing but good things to say about Portland, especially its restaurants, he would rather be walking the streets of an NBA city, rather than the Old Port.
"Of course I don't want to be here," he said.
But no complaints. Silas, a constant contributor on Twitter (@XavierSilas), he recently sent this tweet:
"I chose this journey. So I need to just shut up and walk it."
Silas smiled when it was read back to him.
"My dad kind of inspired it," he said. "I was talking to him and he said 'We chose this life. You got to stick with it and you got to live it.' "
James Silas played 10 years of pro ball, including eight with the San Antonio Spurs, where his No. 13 jersey is retired.
While James retired before Xavier was born, his youngest was around the game often. And if the direct bloodline was not enough, Xavier's godfather is Julius Erving.
Still, James and Vanessa raised a son, not just a basketball player. He was not allowed to play on a team until sixth grade. He learned other things, like taking his schoolwork seriously.
Later, in high school, he played piano and took a course in Chinese. And he got involved like his parents. James is a regional director of Midnight Basketball, a program designed to motivate youth to become more productive with their lives. Vanessa "does all the work behind the scenes," Xavier said.
"They always led a philanthropic type of life," Xavier Silas said of his parents. "I just always saw them helping people.
"I feel if I'm not helping out, I'm not doing my part."
Xavier Silas is also involved in Midnight Basketball. He has visited China with Reach USA, a sports-based Christian outreach program. And he helped promote a charity that sold T-shirts to fund school uniforms in Haiti.
Silas know that the higher the stage he reaches in basketball, the more he will be able to give back. He has come a long way already, from high school in Austin, Texas; to prep school at Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H., in 2005 -- "It was so cold. We didn't have these mild winters like now. It was really brutal" -- to Colorado University and then transferring to Northern Illinois University. His degree is in Rhetoric Communication.
His brief pro career has included stops in France, Maine, Philadelphia and Orlando in the NBA's summer league.
In Orlando, Silas almost had his skull fractured when his head was pushed down as another player was jumping up. Silas' face hit the back of the player's head.
The blow, causing a concussion, fractured bones in his forehead. Surgery was required.
"They went in, took some of the bone out, cleaned it up, inserted a titanium plate and then put 57 staples across my head," Silas said. "It was like a face-lift."
Two weeks later, Silas was preparing for the next basketball season. He plays both guard positions for Maine, while also noted for his hustle on both ends of the court.
"Xavier brings so much energy and effort to our defense," Red Claws Coach Mike Taylor said.
Energy and effort. Still proving himself. Not spoiled in the least.
Staff writer Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or: