This is an emotional time for South Carolina head coach Frank Martin.
On one hand, he hopes to see former Gamecock star Chris Silva selected in the NBA Draft Thursday night. Silva, a three-year starter and two-time All-SEC player, could be selected in the second round or get a free-agent opportunity after the draft.
On the other hand, Martin is happy to have guard A.J. Lawson coming back next season after testing the NBA waters.
“That’s a difficult moment for me because watching those kids become pros brings me tremendous joy,” Martin said Wednesday. “Knowing I get to coach A.J. Lawson for another year brings me tremendous joy. It’s not like I’m happy at one and disappointed at another.”
Silva, a key part of Martin’s 2017 Final Four team, led South Carolina in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots as a junior and senior. He made the All-SEC team both seasons and was the SEC co-Defensive Player of the Year as a junior.
While the 6-9 forward is not showing up in many mock drafts, he could hear his named called in the second round Thursday night. If not, he will almost certainly get a free agent opportunity and invite to a team’s training camp.
Martin has seen the interest in Silva skyrocket recently.
“There is some genuine interest in Chris right now,” he said. “My phone has been really busy the last 48 hours and it’s mostly been about Chris. There is a lot of realization because he has some great workouts and people have been able to engage him. He’s such a beautiful kid. I’m not in the NBA, I’m not into comparing … [but] his resume speaks for himself.”
Martin believes that Silva, a four-year college player, is better prepared for the NBA than many underclassman that will be drafted.
“I just know this, he’s performed a lot better over a longer period of time, head to head, and won more games than a lot of guys who are supposedly going to get drafted,” he said. “I get it, he wasn’t a sexy recruit coming out of high school so all the recruiting gurus didn’t give him credit, so then it’s hard to give him credit when it’s time to be a pro, because they didn’t think he was good enough back in the day.
“But the one thing about the draft is that those intelligent guys [scouts and GMs], they are going to pick the guy that best fits their team. There is some genuine information gathering for Chris that has taken place over the last week and a lot of phone calls over the last couple of days. He’s got some momentum going on his side right now.”
Lawson declared for the NBA Draft but did not get invited to the NBA Combine and decided to return to school. Martin said Lawson drew more interest from NBA teams than Silva did last year as an underclassman.
While Martin supported Lawson’s decision to consider the NBA, he is certainly glad his all-star guard is returning.
“I know our team is better. I know I will become a better coach and I know that having him around, he’s a great teammate. That’s a whole lot of good stuff,” he said.
Lawson played 30 minutes per game as a freshman and averaged 13.4 points and 4.3 rebounds while playing both guard spots. He had 18 double-figure scoring games, including six 20-point games, and was named to the SEC All-Freshman team. Many believe he could be a first-round pick in next year’s NBA Draft.
“He’s put himself in a place where he has proven that he can succeed and succeed at a high level,” Martin said. “Going to all those workouts and the different things and the meetings and conversations … it was a tremendous learning process.
“I want to put them in a place where every spring they have a really, really hard decision to make — chase the dream, or because their experience here is so good they want to come back. That means they are lucky, they are making a hard decision, which means they like both sides.”