There is typically not a lot to get excited about when it comes to DePaul basketball. That’s a nice way of putting it. The Blue Demons have not made the NCAA tournament in 14 years. They’ve finished in the cellar of the Big East seven of the last nine years. The last time DePaul finished a season above .500, George W. Bush was still president and you were listening to a lot of Akon. It’s been a while.
It is within that context that a legend was born. Our hero has bleached-blonde hair, Rec Specs, and the energy of a recently awakened Golden Retriever. He is Pantelis Xidias, and he is college basketball’s greatest hype man.
Xidias came to DePaul this season as a walk-on from Indiana prep powerhouse La Lumiere. There, Xidias was a part of a national championship team that featured Jaren Jackson Jr., Brian Bowen (yes, that Brian Bowen), and Michigan’s Jordan Poole, among others. Xidias’ role was to bring energy on the bench. He’s taken that job to the next level at DePaul.
We caught up with Xidias to talk about his favorite dance moves, his instant-celebrity status, and how he’s going to celebrate when DePaul wins the national championship (stop laughing).
You were celebrating on the bench at La Lumiere, too. How did this all get started and why?
Throughout high school, our assistant coach at DePaul was our head coach, Shane Heirman. He was always talking to us about bringing energy. He said whatever we’re doing, do it to the best of our abilities. Know your role. If you don’t play that much, then what are you really bringing to the team? So for us it was bring energy, clap, if the guys need anything, and as far as hyping them up, bring it to them. So I just kind of took that philosophy to the next level.
I think energy is whatever you take it as. So I started dancing, getting really hype, and people started taking notice of it. The team loved it so I kept doing it.
Did you have any walk-on opportunities from other programs? Were you a heavily courted walk-on? Or did you know you were going to DePaul when they hired your high school coach, Shane Heirman?
I was talking to a couple other schools. I was talking to Creighton — the assistant over there was talking to me about taking a visit and having a potential walk-on opportunity.
But when Shane Heirman got hired here … he’s helped me so much. He’s helped me develop as a player and a person. Once that happened, I knew where I was going.
You were officially A Thing from that first game vs. Notre Dame. Were you surprised by the instant attention?
I was extremely surprised. I was hoping people would like it and catch in on it. I can’t believe it happened so fast. The first game Notre Dame, then all of the sudden, after the game we’re on Twitter, everything is blowing up, my phone’s blowing up, it was incredible. So I really appreciate everyone for that. It’s been a hectic experience in the best way possible.
What percentage of credit do you give my tweets for your instant celebrity status?
At least 100 percent.
Minimum 100 percent.
I gotta give you a lot of credit for that. You put me on the map.
Do you practice these celebrations in the mirror or are they natural?
Honestly, they just come naturally. When I see something, I think it’s so cool and all of the sudden I just start dancing. Over time, I’ve thought about things I would do, like different dance moves. But now it’s so second nature to me that it just happens.
My moves just come out. And at any given time they can just appear. Stay tuned.
From afar, it seems like you have certain moves choreographed to certain plays. Is that true?
I have a set of moves that are on a rotation. So they might just happen to come out on certain plays. I don’t have anything too choreographed in particular.
What’s your favorite move?
I have a lot of them. It might have to be Hittin’ Dem Folks.
When I put my arms in the air and bring ’em down, that might have to be my favorite. It just feels right.
And when do you go with the Hittin’ Dem Folks celebration?
Most of the time when there’s a big-time dunk. Like when Max (Strus) has a big-time dunk, or someone has a big-time play.
Like the Creighton game when Eli (Cain) hit that clutch three at the end of the game …. ohhhh, I was Hittin’ Dem Folks. That was big time.
Where does that constant energy come from? And as a follow to that: Does it ever bother anyone? Does anyone ever tell you to chill out? Is it always appreciated?
As far as the does it bother anyone …. especially when we go to road games, it seems to bother a lot of people. It hear a lot of criticism for it. But I enjoy it.
Where it came from … both my parents are very outgoing and energetic people. They’re always about talking to new people, meeting new people, being nice to everyone they see. So I took that and from there, I developed those qualities as someone who’s extremely energetic and outgoing.
Players model their game off other players. Do you model your celebrations after anyone? Do you have a dance idol you look up to?
I don’t have anybody in particular. I’m just trying to be the best one out here. I don’t really see too many other people doing as much on the bench. I see celebrations. I loved Monmouth’s bench mob. That was big time. I didn’t really put two and two together that I would be in the same situation, in college basketball doing the same thing, but when I was watching them, that was incredible.
For the most part I’m just trying to be myself, and make my dancing legacy the best it can possibly be. And try to help the team at the same time.
Maybe you’ll be some future walk-on’s celebration idol a few years from now.
I sure hope so. That’s the goal. I really hope I can be an inspiration.
On a scale of 1-10, how good of a dancer would you say you are?
From a skill standpoint, I’d put myself at about a three. But I think the hype that I bring bumps it up to at least a five.
I really don’t think I’m that great of a dancer. But as you can tell, I really don’t care.
Have you gotten any burn yet?
I got in one exhibition game at the beginning of the year. It was against IU Northwest. I played for the last minute or so. That was cool.
Your time is going to come eventually. What are you going to do when you finally get in?
A lot of people ask me that. “Are you going to shoot the ball? Are you going to fire up a three real quick?” Honestly I’m just going to let the offense flow. I don’t want to mess up the offense when I come in. Do what I’m supposed to do. If that ends up with me getting a shot, maybe a corner three, that would be phenomenal.
You’re not gonna Hit Dem Folks on the court?
If I hit a shot, oh yeah, you better believe I’ll be Hittin’ Dem Folks.
When DePaul wins the national championship, what’s your celebration going to be?
That’s a secret right there. When we win, I’m going to have to bust out something the world has never seen before.
Stay tuned for that. It’s going to be incredible.