Will Solomon spent this past off-season in some pretty capable company.
After becoming one of Clemson’s more prolific scorers in the last half of the 1998-’99 season, Solomon headed back home to Hartford, Connecticut to play a little pick-up ball with some friends back home.
Sound relaxing? It does until you learn who Solomon’s “friends” are. Try New York Knicks Center Marcus Camby, Milwaukee Bucks guard Ray Allen, Tyson Wheeler of the Denver Nuggets, and University of Connecticut pre-season All-American Khalid El-Amin.
Not exactly your typical “fun in the sun” type of vacation.
The fact that he would even step on the court with such proven players shows that Tiger sophomore feels he can play with anyone.
“I feel confident that I can run with those guys. I picked up competitiveness and I saw what I’ve got against those guys. They play in the NBA right now and that’s where I hope to be. Coming back after my experience last year, I know I can play here,” he says.
Solomon’s confidence is justified following a strong freshman campaign. His 6.3-point per game average is misleading considering that he started only six games, all in the latter part of the season. In the Tiger’s last 17 games, Solomon averaged close to nine-points per game, including a 20-point effort against Georgia Tech. Even with his impressive freshman statistics, Solomon says that he often struggled to blend in on a team stocked with seniors.
“Coming in last year, I was just trying to get playing time. I wasn’t really comfortable because there were a lot of older guys and I was just trying to work my way in. But this year I’m looked at as one of the players that’s going to have to help out the ball club a lot,” he says.
As one of only three returning players with significant ACC experience, Solomon realizes that his role on the team has dramatically changed. After playing the understudy to Terrell McIntyre last season, the 19-year old Solomon now finds himself having to take the Tigers’ five freshmen under his wing.
“I’ve got to be a good role model to the young guys and show them the ropes and help them through the ups and downs. I’ve got to keep their heads up,” he says.
Despite his effectiveness in putting points on the board, Solomon struggled with turnovers, coughing the ball up 75 times with only 49 assists. Those numbers will have to improve this year as Clemson coach Larry Shyatt expects Solomon to take over the point guard position, more so now because of an injury to freshman Ed Scott.
“I’ve got to get other guys the ball. Last year I didn’t think that was my role. I thought my role was to just come in and shoot because we had a point guard in Terrell McIntyre. This year, I’ve got to take care of the ball,” he says.
For a guy who matches up against NBA élites in his spare time, that should be no problem.
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