DimeMag

Efficiency Enforces Effectiveness

“To master a skill, you need 10,000 hours of practice.” That is an old adage that if taken too literal, could be a theory that comes back to hurt you in the long run. Literally.

For Northern Illinois University (NIU) guard Xavier Silas, he found that out the hard way while preparing for his junior season, his first with the team after transferring from the University of Colorado in 2009. He was originally recruited by head coach Ricardo Patton en route to Colorado, but when Patton left it blazed the trail for Silas to follow him to NIU.

During that transition summer, Silas teamed up with the “stealth trainer” Frank Matrisciano to work on his game. The experience that he had with his trainer shaped him to what it is today, but not without major setbacks and a training regimen that emphasized quantity over quality.

Matrisciano is well known for working with current Los Angeles Clippers star forward Blake Griffin. He is a very unique trainer who does not use conventional methods, preferring the Rocky IV style of lifting rocks and running around mountains. His style, while unconventional, has a track record of proven success; but the extreme style he brings to the table has taken counter effects as well.

While working with Matrisciano, the game plan was to achieve mental toughness by repetition. He created a workout for Silas to maximize his shooting stroke and become elite, a road was paved with hundreds of made baskets a day. To be more exact, it was paved with a minimum of 750 made baskets everyday in the effort to create the mental toughness needed to become a great shooter. At times that called for Silas to shoot the ball over 1,500 times a day to hit his quota.

That style had two results.

The first was wear and tear on his body that caused a stress fracture on Silas’s hand, eventually leading him to break his hand and miss games. The countless shots took their toll on his body as well, and eventually it had to break down. The stress fracture was not a concern, give it a little rest and it heals up just fine. The problem was it was more damaged than expected and that led to the broken hand.

This bad habit was created by another, but fed in to Silas’ obsessive-compulsive nature. Former NIU assistant coach Sundance Wicks described Silas as “Ray Allen, he is OCD.” Wicks has been working with Silas for approximately six years, from CU to NIU to where he is today. Once he had the idea “more was better” in his head, Silas could not be told it was wrong. He was going to perfect this method whether it took him 1,500 shots a day or cost him games due to injury.

The second result was orchestrated by his coaches Wicks and Patton, a “Model of Efficiency” as they called it. Silas had in his head that the volume of shots was the best way to become the best shooter he can be. His obsessive nature is what led to him trying to perfect this craft, which led to injury and could have been much worse.

This “Model of Efficiency” is built like an NBA Draft workout; it is meant to have a player shoot a concentrated amount of shots in certain areas. Doing this allows a player to master that area on the court.

It is structured a lot like the old school Mikan Drill, but perimeter oriented. The repetition of shooting from the same spots, making certain amounts before moving on, creates the shooting memory for in-game situations. “Five spots, five shots,” Wicks told me, continuing to say Silas had to either make three-straight swishes or five makes before moving on to the next spot.

Then they would move out to three-point territory and it became, “seven shots from seven spots.” The shooter now has to go 7-for-9 from each spot to continue. This creates an emphasis on shooting percentages rather than volume. Anyone can go in a gym and jack up shots until they make 750 or whatever number they decide is going to make them a good shooter – the numbers will even out eventually.

“You cannot send a kid into the gym without a plan and tell them to just shoot,” says Wicks. Meaning a structured environment will develop a shooter. It took time for Silas to break the mold of his former habits; his obsessiveness told him that what he had mastered was the right way. The way Wicks and Patton were able to get Silas on board was to make the shooting drills into a competition against himself. From practice to practice, Silas would try to outduel himself, getting better and better each time out.

The results spoke for themselves:

Shooting percentages do not just go up over night, but in Silas’ case they did after one summer. This was the same summer teams were gearing up to stop the conference’s second leading scorer from the previous season. Through double-teams, triple-teams and facing every team’s best defender, Silas perfected his shot to become more efficient. Less shot attempts and more makes led to more points and better percentages.

Imagine if Silas had been doing this from his freshman year, he could have been very dangerous. Then again, imagine if he continued his previous training methods, it could have been grim.

Since graduation he has been working out for NBA teams and preparing himself for tonight’s NBA Draft. Thanks to the style he has been preparing with all season, Silas is entering workouts giving NBA teams exactly what they want to see. On June 9 he worked out for the Boston Celtics, and they have a famous workout called the “Boston Run” which thousands of prospects have done before. Steve Blake and Delonte West owned different parts of those records, that is until Silas broke them.

The mental switch to become more efficient turned Silas into one of the most dangerous scorers in the country last season, averaging 22.3 points per game. Every attempt was a calculated one, every shot mattered and had the same odds of going in. Efficiency became a way of life, a strategy that turned his obsessive nature into a weapon that not many can call their own.

Follow Kristofer on Twitter at @NBADraftInsider.

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