Tariq Silver is currently facing the toughest, most important decision of his life.
After a strong season at Tallahassee Community College, the 6-foot-5 shooting guard is mulling college scholarships from over 20 Division I basketball programs, including East Carolina, Oregon State, Temple, Toledo, Wichita State, UAB and UT Martin.
Despite being a former Division I athlete, this is the first real chance he’s had to be the Belle of the Ball – the first time he’ll have to choose a school from a long list, determining where he’ll spend the next few years of his life.
But let’s rewind.
Silver started as a freshman at Clarksville High School in 2013, but wasn’t comfortable there and felt he couldn’t be the player he needed to be. He decided to transfer to Northwest High School and got right into their basketball program, which hadn’t won a district title in over 20 years. Under coach Vincent Turner, Silver and the Vikings changed that by winning the District 10-AAA championship in 2017.
He had the talent and the trophy case of a top-level talent. Through the connections of Turner, Silver earned himself a Division I scholarship at Eastern Michigan University under coach Benny White without much noise from other potential schools.
Unfortunately, a problem soon arose.
“(White) ended up getting fired before I got there,” Silver said. “I already had my National Letter of Intent, I was already signed. Eastern was going to grant me a release from their school, but I had a real good relationship with coach White and I felt like Eastern Michigan had my best interest at heart.
“I stayed in my National Letter of Intent, but I was basically fighting a battle that I couldn’t win.”
After being redshirted in his first year, the former District 10-AAA MVP and all-state guard played in 22 games and averaged 3.3 points. It became clear that a change of scenery was necessary.
To get his feet back under him and prove he could compete with the best players in the country, Silver transferred south to Tallahassee Community College. The Eagles are part of the NJCAA’s toughest conference: the Panhandle.
In order to be the best, he had to beat the best.
“We won the Panhandle Conference championship,” Silver said. “We were nationally ranked all year so we had a bid to go to the national tournament, but with everything going down with the coronavirus, the national tournament ended up getting canceled. But we had a chance to win it all… We were predicted to win the national championship.”
Despite being over 500 miles from Clarksville, Tallahassee, Fla. reminded him of home.
Not only had the program not won a district title since long before he arrived, he knew that going there would give him the best chance to grow as a player.
“Coming to JUCO, I think it’s the best decision I’ve ever made in my whole life,” Silver said. “The second closest would be going to Northwest, because going to Northwest, it put me in a situation where I had to become the player I needed to be. I had to step up and I had to work on my game because if I wasn’t good, Northwest wasn’t good.”
Silver started in all but one game with the Eagles, averaging 12.1 points per game with lights-out efficiency, making 49 percent of shots from the field and 45 percent from three. He also contributed 4.2 rebounds per game.
The effort earned him the conference Newcomer of the Year award and attention from dozens of Division I programs.
And here we are today.
Silver’s list of scholarship offers is made up of 24 mid-major schools, along with interest from a handful of major conference programs, including Arkansas and Georgia of the SEC.
Despite always having the talent, Silver has never had this kind of attention. He’s relishing every moment.
“This is really, in a way, like a dream come true because every athlete dreams of going through a process where they have to pick a winner,” he said. “It’s overwhelming at some moments. I feel like I put in the work for it. I really just appreciate it.
“A lot of people had their doubts when I first went to Michigan and left Michigan and went to junior college, a lot of people had stuff to say. It’s just a testament to my perseverance. If you really work for something, you can get it if you put in the work for it.”
On April 5, Silver will be cutting down his list of 24 – and counting – schools to five finalists and go from there.
When things went wrong at Eastern Michigan, the one and only school he was given a chance by, he could have quit. He could have decided that basketball wasn’t his path.
But he didn’t quit, and his dedication is paying off.
This might only be the beginning for Tariq Silver of Clarksville, Tennessee.
“If I pick the right school and I go there and I maximize my prime there, who knows what can happen after that?”