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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Time away helped ex-Jag

Staff Writer
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/FILE
Former Augusta State center Garret Siler averaged 14.1 points per game and had 62 blocks in 38 games for the Shanghai Sharks.

After getting cut in training camp by the Atlanta Hawks in October, Garret Siler didn't let it affect him.

"You always have to have a good attitude about things and just take it as business," he said. "They're the one paying you. It's just like if you get fired. You have to suck it up and move on to the next gig. If you complain and whine, that's less of a chance you'll get a job somewhere else."

Siler found that job overseas, playing five months for the Shanghai Sharks. Now, the former Augusta State All-American center is back home with his eye on an NBA future.

Teams are lining up for the services for the 7-footer after he honed his skills inside the paint in China. Siler said Atlanta and Miami are his top two choices, but after the Hawks fired coach Mike Woodson he said he's planning to play with the Heat's NBA Summer League team in July.

"I like a team that if everyone gets along with each other and you feel the camaraderie, that's the team to play for," Siler said.

After taking his first long trip away from home, Siler said he enjoyed his stay in Shanghai. His teammates helped ease his homesickness -- he spent his first Christmas away from his parents -- and he was able to stay connected with family and friends through Facebook and Skype.

Rice was a big part of his diet in Asia. That's one reason he was able to keep his weight in the low 270s.

"There would be all these different types of dishes and this big platter of rice to go with it," he said. "The food there was so healthy. Even the American food was cooked so much better."

Siler said his biggest adjustment was learning the language. In Shanghai, English was acceptable. When the team traveled, he had to learn enough basic Chinese to get around -- he knows phrases such as "Hello," "How are you?" "Turn right," "Turn left" and "Go straight."

"You learn what you need to learn in order to survive," he said.

On the court, he found himself adjusting to the game. In his first contest, Siler posted 13 points, 14 rebounds, seven blocks and six fouls.

Siler played all season against American centers, and he was double- and triple-teamed most of the time.

While he stayed in foul trouble almost all of the 38 games, Siler finished the season shooting 76 percent from the floor, averaging 14.1 points and 9.3 rebounds a game with 62 blocks.

Siler said Chinese players are used to the Americans taking all the shots. One time, he dished the ball out to the perimeter to an open teammate -- the ball hit him in the arm.

"Once they understood it was a team effort, we were good," Siler said. "I'm not going to be a black hole if the ball comes into me. I'm not going to try to score every time. I'm going to look for the open guy."

The main thing Siler took from the overseas stint was the experience and the ability to mature on his own.

"As a player, as a person, as a man, I've learned to look into myself and know that I can play," he said. "I'm not that same guy that played at Richmond Academy a while ago. I've developed. I've put in a lot of hard work."

He's a much different player than the one cut by the Hawks last year. He's not bitter about the experience. Instead, he's ready for a new future.

"It was meant to be. I wasn't ready yet to play in the league. I guess I wasn't there mentally yet," Siler said. "I needed to gain some more experience as far as me playing a lot, and I did."

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