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Zags were 'best fit' for athletic guard on Demos' title team

by: COURTESY OF IVAR VONG - Silas Melson, standout senior guard for Jefferson High, leaves the court at Matthew Knight Arena a state champion after the Democrats Class 5A finals victory over Churchill.A normal day for Silas Melson consists of classes at Jefferson High, a little time at home after school, some NBA 2K, a bit of relaxing with friends — and plenty of time on a basketball court, “working on my game and then working on my game again, later that night.”

After his daily and often nightly work in the gym, “I get home, listen to music and try to accomplish my priorities.”

The 6-3, 180-pound senior, who led Jefferson to the Class 5A championship in 2013-14, is getting ready for his big move to Spokane, Wash., where he will play for Gonzaga and coach Mark Few.

“Silas will remind people of Gary Bell Jr., a lot,” says Few, referring to the 6-2 guard from Kent, Wash., who averaged 11.4 points per game last season as a junior for the Bulldogs.

Melson poured in a game-high 40 points in the April 26 Northwest Shootout, as he led the Oregon all-star team to a 127-114 victory over Washington.

Melson “can really shoot,” Few says. “He’s already an excellent on-ball defender, and he’s only 17. He’s got a lot of potential and will have a real bright future here. He has a good feel for the game and is another guy with a good stroke who is a very good athlete.”

Melson says he chose Gonzaga for various reasons, including its basketball tradition, “great coaches who are committed to skill development” and Jesuit education.

“I thought they had the best fit for me as a guard,” he says. “Plus, they have great academics, and I plan on sticking around for all four years and getting my degree.”

Melson wasn’t heavily recruited by other schools. Oregon State, Washington State, Colorado and Oregon showed various degrees of interest.

Gonzaga was the main school that identified him early as a top prospect, and the Bulldogs told him that “if I handle my business, I’ll play right away.”

“We’re really excited about him,” says Brian Michaelson, a former Zag player (2001-05) who came out of Jesuit High and is entering his second year as an assistant coach under Few. “He’s going to battle right away. Hopefully he can get into the rotation right away.

“He’s a very good defender who I think can become a great defender. He’s very athletic and a great shooting. He’s coming off a great senior year.”

Melson and former Jesuit High star Kyle Wiltjer, who redshirted last season at Gonzaga after transferring from Kentucky, have been texting back and forth, discussing their goals for next season.

Melson says he needs to “basically take care of my body, put on some pounds and muscle” and continue to work on his ballhandling and leadership.

His father, Tony Melson, says he thinks Gonzaga was the best fit.

“His personality — he’s a laid-back, quiet guy with some major intensity — fits Gonzaga,” Tony Melson says. “Gonzaga will bring out that intensity in him. And it’s a very good academic school — it’s known throughout the nation — with a small-city feel.”

Another Jefferson hoops standout, senior wing Devaunte Paschal, says Silas will “bring a big work ethic and big heart” to Gonzaga.

“He’s a very consistent scorer — he can drive to the lane and get it to the cup. He’s very athletic.”

by: COURTESY OF IVAR VONG - Silas Melson, standout senior guard for Jefferson High, leaves the court at Matthew Knight Arena a state champion after the Democrats Class 5A finals victory over Churchill.Melson and Paschal have shared more than basketball victories with the Democrats. Both have gone through some life struggles, too, and both saw their parents split up after their sophomore year at Jeff.

“We were both going through it together,” says Paschal, who hopes to play Division I basketball as well, possibly at Weber State, Portland State, Idaho, Washington State or Texas A&M. “We pushed one another and worked out a lot together, during difficult times. It was our outlet and escape.”

Tony Melson, 44, says Silas took it well when he and Silas’ mom, Deidre, parted ways.

“That adversity helped him with his personal life and his playing basketball,” Tony Melson says.

Silas is a middle child; his sister, Sydney, is 23, and his brother, Sanborne, is 9.

“I always like to think of my little brother, knowing that he looks up to me and that we’ve always been close, despite the age difference,” Silas says.

And he agrees that the issues at home “have driven me to be a better person and basketball player and to keep improving.

“I went through some parental things, and I also went through some of my own problems, like lack of confidence.

“I can remember one time when one of my mentors, Canaan Chatman, who’s like a second father to me, got in my ear about how I couldn’t do anything without believing in myself. He also mentioned how all players who got recognition over me worked much harder than me.

“He said if I wanted to get my college paid for I was going to have to work much harder. He just opened my eyes to reality. Ever since then, I’ve always tried to be the hardest worker I could be.”

That work all paid off last season, as Melson’s skills and talents pushed the Democrats to the top. He scored a game-high 24 points in the state championship game, a 69-64 win at Matthew Knight Arena against Eugene-based rival Churchill.

The Demos’ only loss came against Seattle power Rainier Beach, which went 30-1 and was seeded second in the season-ending national tournament in New York City.

“It’s one of the best feelings I’ve ever had,” Melson says, of going out with a 26-1 record. “Coming into the season, I knew I was going to have a big leadership role, and I committed to improving my leadership, and I think it showed the most in the last game.”

Melson picked up a lot about basketball from his father, who played on the 1988 Jefferson team that was ranked No. 1 in the state and placed third in the state tournament

“Silas would watch whole basketball games on TV when he was 3 and 4 years old, which kind of separates him from others” Tony Melson says. “He was dialed in on games. By the time he was 5 of 6, he was telling my friends and players and stats.

“He was a sponge, soaking up everything around him.”

Being a student of the game helps Silas put the 2013-14 Demos into perspective, as comparisons with Jefferson’s other great teams and state championship squads are common.

“Jeff has had great history and teams,” he says. “I think there were many Jeff teams more talented than our team. But I think the heart and perseverance that our team had was through the roof.”

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