Get hyped: Meet DePaul’s high-energy freshman walk-on


Pantelis Xidias is always active on the sidelines durning the games and often dances at center court during pre-game warmups. (Richard Bodee | The DePaulia)

There’s an old saying in sports that statistics don’t always tell the whole story.  A box score will identify the winner, loser, various percentages and, of course, the final score.

All of that information is important.  But at the end of the day, it’s really just a bunch of numbers.

In basketball, like any other sport, some of the best stories are found away from the scorer’s table.  You don’t have to look far.  In the case of Pantelis Xidias, just glance over to the sideline.  It would be hard to miss him.

Xidias is a freshman guard on the men’s basketball team at DePaul University.  He stands at 5-foot-9, and sports a blonde fohawk that’s unmistakable.  The business major hasn’t played a minute this season, and yet he may be the most recognizable Blue Demon on the 2017-18 roster.

“He is always energetic,” head coach Dave Leitao said.  “What you see on the sideline is duplicated tenfold in the gym every day.”

Xidias has gained national attention this season for the enthusiasm he displays on DePaul’s bench.  Fox Sports 1 has cut to him repeatedly throughout their broadcasts, and Uproxx published a story about Xidias last December.  Whether it’s due to his dance moves or his Kurt Rambis-like goggles, Xidias has become a fan favorite almost overnight.

“I didn’t expect it at all,” Xidias said.  “It came out of nowhere.  I remember one morning we had a morning lift, and I came out of the lift and had 6,000 Twitter followers from the 500 I had (earlier).”

A native of Michigan City, Ind., Xidias joined the team as a non-scholarship player back in September.  He graduated from La Lumiere School in La Porte, Ind. – a basketball powerhouse located in the northern part of the state. Current sophomore guard Brandon Cyrus is also a graduate of La Lumiere and says he spends more time with Pantelis off the court than anyone else on the team.

“Whether it’s playing Call of Duty or just hanging out, he’s always making me laugh,” Cyrus said.

Cyrus and Xidias maintain a close friendship, and while Cyrus is more soft-spoken, it wasn’t so long ago that his teammate was the same way.

“I think as we became friends, he got more comfortable with me and my group of friends,” Cyrus said.  “He started to get out of his shell and be who he really is, which is goofy.  He’s a fun guy to be around.  So I think it just developed over time.”

“I was always very energetic,” Xidias said.  “My dad was always trying to keep me in control in church, school, and all of that.  I was a good kid, but I was always saying so much and laughing so much.  I had a lot to say.”

Xidias still has a lot to say, especially when it comes to his father.  George Xidias immigrated to America from Greece when he was 8 years old.  He now owns an automotive shop in Michigan City.

“He came here in 1970,” Xidias said.  “(His) work ethic is something that I’ve never seen before.  He was very poor when he was younger, and was living in a little mountain village.  Before he started the business, he was working 20 hours a day washing dishes or whatever he could (to get by).”

“I see him persevere through things.  When anything is hard, he works his way through it, and it works out in the end.”

Xidias calls his father every day, and the two usually meet up at Mastro’s Steakhouse (his favorite restaurant) whenever they’re both in town.

“They’re Greek, hard-working, immigrant,” Leitao said.  “You know that’s a very tough word right now in society.  But they’re here, successful, family-oriented, grounded and all those good things that his family has passed onto him.”

Graphic by Ally Zacek, Photo courtesy of Richard Bodee

As for the dance moves?  Well, those were not inherited.

“The dancing, I don’t know where I got that from, that was just me,” said Xidias.  “I started doing that my senior year of high school, dancing around the sidelines and doing something to give people energy, and it transitioned to here.”

None of the in-game celebrations are choreographed either.  With Xidias, what you see is what you get.

“It’s pretty much all flow.  I never really plan anything, I have a series of dance moves that I just kind of tend to do now.  But usually, it’s just whatever comes to mind.  If I see a dunk or Brandon Cyrus hit a three, I’ll just go crazy, and I love it.”

The birth of his sideline routines coincided with a decrease in playing time.  Up until his senior year, Xidias was frequently in the starting lineup on La Lumiere’s travel team.

“In the beginning, it was hard to transition from being a starter and scoring about 15 points a game, and then all of a sudden, zero,” Xidias said.  “You’re not playing at all, and you’re getting reps in practice sometimes.”

Xidias looked to his parents, George and Dawn, for advice on how to make that transition.  They told him that while he couldn’t determine his playing time, it was his choice as to where he wanted to go from there.

“That’s what it’s all about, controlling what you can control.  You know I can’t control how much I play or how tall I’m going to be.  But one thing I can control is giving everybody else energy and trying to do my best to make sure everybody is playing the best they are.”

Walk-on or not, Xidias has carved out a specific role for himself on the men’s basketball team.  A role that, quite frankly, very few would be able to fill.

“He’s infectious,” Leitao said with a smile. “(Xidias) is just a positive, energetic person.  There is no off button, which is a beautiful thing.”