Catching Up with Will Solomon

To say Will Solomon made his mark on Clemson basketball during his three years in Tigertown would be an understatement. Solomon was a first-team All-ACC selection as a sophomore in 1999-2000, the last Clemson player to earn the honor.

As a junior, he was second-team All-ACC.

He also led the ACC in scoring at 20.9 points per game his sophomore season, and was fourth in the league as a junior at 19.7 per contest.

The talented off-guard left the Tigers with one year of eligibility in 2001 when he declared for the NBA Draft. Expected to go in the first round, Solomon ended up being drafted in the second by the then Vancouver Grizzlies.

As a rookie in the NBA, he saw action in 62 games, averaging 5.2 points and 1.5 assists per game.

After a year in the league, he took his game across the Atlantic Ocean and has since played in such exotic locales as Greece, Israel and Turkey.

Last year playing in his second season with Fenerbahce Ulker in Istanbul, Turkey, he averaged 17.8 points, 3.2 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.3 steals in 13 regular season games. In Euro league Top 16 play, Solomon contributed 20.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists in six games.

Solomon also played for the Wizards' summer league team in 2006 and found himself back near American soil this summer when he signed with the Toronto Raptors in July.

CUTigers.com recently caught up with him by phone in Toronto as he hopes to land a spot in the regular rotation this season, and here's what he had to say:

How do you look back on your three years at Clemson?
Solomon: It was an experience. Coming from Connecticut where I'm from to the South was experiencing something new and different. It was an experience that I wouldn't really trade for anything. We didn't do too much winning but it was still a great experience for my career.

What kind of impact did Coach Shyatt have on you during that time?
Solomon: Well, Coach Shyatt is really a defensive-minded coach. I really appreciated him as a coach because he gave me a lot of leeway and let me develop my game as far as being the captain of the team, letting me lead by example and just giving me confidence as a player. I've got to credit him in that respect and also for the championships that he has at Florida now.

What are your thoughts on Clemson basketball right now under Coach Purnell
Solomon: Coach Purnell down at Clemson, he is doing a great job leading the Tigers back to an elite program. I respect that and him as a coach by getting the guys in there that can help build the program the right way. He's doing a great job right now.

How tough was it for you to leave school a year early?
Solomon: I was thinking about leaving a year before that, my sophomore year. I really wasn't confident in myself in leaving. The basketball aspect of it, it just happened so fast and the NBA, I wasn't really thinking about it at that time. I played another year at Clemson, my junior year. We had a successful season and I had a successful season. I talked to my parents, my family, the school and Coach Shyatt. I thought that was the correct move at that time.

Solomon was a first-team All-ACC selection as a sophomore in 1999-2000, the last Clemson player to earn the honor. As a junior, he was second-team All-ACC. He led the ACC in scoring at 20.9 points per game his sophomore season, and was fourth in the league as a junior at 19.7 per contest.
Were you shocked that you weren't drafted until the second round when the Grizzlies selected you?
Solomon: Really, that was a total surprise. A lot of the mock drafts going into Chicago had me going from No. 14 to 28, so I was really projected to be a first-round pick and thought that a good showing in Chicago would solidify that. Obviously it didn't. I just looked at it from a different angle. I was drafted in the second round by the Memphis Grizzlies and I really enjoyed it. It was my goal to play in the NBA since I was a kid. When you accomplish that, you feel like you had accomplished one of your goals.

What was the biggest adjustment for you when you first landed in the NBA?
Solomon: The biggest adjustment was playing a different style of basketball. At Clemson, I was looked at as the go-to guy and showed a lot of leadership. Once I got to the NBA, your first year is really a learning experience and it was all about just getting accustomed to the NBA life.

How has the league changed since your rookie year?
Solomon: Well, I don't see there as being much difference. There are a lot of different players but there are still some of the same players around. There are bigger arenas but the level of basketball is the same. The environment has changed but the game hasn't changed.

Of everywhere you played abroad, which locale was your favorite?
Solomon: My favorite place was Turkey. I played there three years. The learning experience basketball-wise and the knowledge of the game I picked up there was great. I was there taking care of my family, was playing the sport that I love to play and was playing 30-32 minutes a game. I wouldn't have traded that in for anything.

What was your biggest adjustment when you first ventured overseas?
Solomon: My biggest adjustment was the communication barrier. Not too many people speak English and getting used to the food over there was also something I had to adjust to. It was hard to adjust there but if you live there, you have to learn to live with things and to adjust to a certain lifestyle. You have to fit in and live like the people do in whatever country you're in.

Depending on the league and the team, some American players that play abroad have to worry about getting paid. Did you have to worry about something so basic?
Solomon: Teams that I played on were totally different. I played in the Euro league, which is the 25 best teams in Europe from Spain, Italy, Greece, Israel and all over Europe. Those top teams are the quality teams and are really professional. They have budgets almost like the NBA and their arenas seat 20,000 people. I didn't really experience that aspect of playing overseas. Sometimes, it's like that because it's cut-throat.

How good does it feel to be back in the Association playing again?
Solomon: Yes, it feels really good. Just being able to talk to guys that really understand you and to have a good group of coaches that understand you is good. The coach that we have, Sam Mitchell, he is a players' coach and is behind you 100 percent. It's just different basketball. It's really like another learning experience from six years ago. I'm just happy to be back.

With your extensive experience of playing abroad, how much do you find yourself imparting some words of wisdom on some of the younger players in Toronto?
Solomon: In this situation, I'm hanging back a little bit. It's really a learning experience for me. I have knowledge about the game by just playing professionally for so many years. You have to pass on a little leadership to some of these younger guys and lead by example on the court. I try to do things 100% the proper way and let my actions speak for me.

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