May 10, 2010
DEKALB, Ill. - Xavier Silas and Sean Kowal will represent the Northern Illinois men's basketball program as part of a touring team and cultural exchange trip in China from May 14-31. The seniors-to-be will play for "Reach USA," a team comprised of 11 NCAA Division I players.
Reach USA will be coached by former NIU and current Nevada assistant coach Dennis Gates. Since its inception, the organization has visited 16 different countries on five continents.
Reach USA will play nine games against teams from the Chinese Basketball Association. Other members of the team will include: Peyton Siva (Louisville), Josh Harrellson and Jon Hood (Kentucky), Brandon Barnes (Lipscomb), Malik Story (Nevada), Steffphon Pettigrew (Western Kentucky), Jeremy Williams (UTEP), Carlton Fay (Southern Illinois) and Skylar McBee (Tennessee).
Silas also toured with Reach USA in May 2008. That team went 1-3-1 before returning home after a devastating earthquake brought out three national days of mourning.
"The trip's purpose is to learn about much more than basketball, and that experience of being in China right around the time that the earthquake hit certainly hit home," said Silas. "We stopped playing games, because the entire nation was in a period of mourning. That's an experience I won't forget."
Silas added that his familiarity with the tour itself, along with the format and playing style, will be beneficial.
"It's a completely different playing style; the teams we are playing against are professionals in every sense of the word," Silas said. "The average height of our opponents is about 6-foot-8. We'll play some exhibition games, but predominately play against one team. It's almost like a playoff series; we'll be playing the same teams in different cities."
Kowal, on the other hand, will be visiting another country for the first time. Silas encouraged him to pursue the opportunity to join the tour.
"Xavier toured a couple of years back, and talked about how great of an experience it was, and how it helped him develop as a player, so I welcomed that," said Kowal. "It's going to be my first time outside of the United States, so I'm looking forward to experiencing the culture, and just taking it all in. I'm also excited about getting some extra training in. Obviously, if you want to continue to improve, you've got to play against great competition."
Last July, Silas and Kowal both attended Frank Matrisciano's training regiment in San Francisco. The duo also played one season alongside each other at Colorado (2007-08), before transferring to NIU to re-join head coach Ricardo Patton's program.