Solomon: I'm Excited To Be A Cowboy

BIXBY, Okla. – It would have been hard to wipe the smile off Mitch Solomon's face Thursday afternoon. Just seven months ago the best scholarship offer the Bixby (Okla.) High School senior had was from Lehigh University. But after a productive summer in which he impressed college coaches from coast to coast, the 6-9, 225-pound post player signed this week with Oklahoma State.

"I'm really excited to be a Cowboy. It's incredibly exciting. It's beyond what I thought it would be," Solomon said Thursday during a signing ceremony on the Bixby High School campus.

Solomon eventually received about 30 offers, including Colorado, Georgia Tech, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oral Roberts, SMU, Stanford, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Tulsa, Vanderbilt, Virginia and Yale. It was an impressive list for Solomon, who just six months earlier was wondering if he would have any major college offers.

"Maybe in my wildest dreams but not in my realistic ones did I think I'd get offers from OSU, Texas Tech, OU and those type of schools, but it happened," said Solomon, who went from a virtual unknown prospect to a four-star recruit who is now ranked as the 11th-best center and No. 81 overall prospect in the nation.

He gave a verbal commitment to Oklahoma State in October and signed his letter of intent on Wednesday, the first day of the early signing period.

Solomon joins two other top 100 prospects to sign this week with OSU (No. 77 Jared Terrell, a 6-3 shooting guard from the Brewster Academy in New Hampshire, and No. 79 Joe Burton, a 6-5 small forward from Houston), giving the Cowboys the nation's 15th-best recruiting class.

"The community (within the basketball team) at OSU was incredible. When I went there, they have some great guys and the facilities are incredible. There are a lot of different reasons why I picked OSU. It's close, (and) both of my parents went there (to school)," said Solomon, who averaged 15.7 points, 9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks last year as a junior, while shooting 51.9 percent from the field and 65.9 percent from the free-throw line.

Ironically, Bixby High School coach Scott Padek said Solomon did not try a single 3-pointer as a junior but it was his outside shooting that caught the attention of college coaches as he traveled across the country playing for the PWP summer league team out of Tulsa.

"As we started working with him you could see the talent. You could see he could really shoot it, he just needed to polish up a few things. But really it was the mindset of going and scoring," said PWP coach Shawn Williams.

His breakout game was against the Athletes First team during a summer tournament in Tulsa. "He went off for about 25 (points) that game, and that's when he really started shooting the ball from outside, getting confidence," Williams said. "I think from then his confidence grew. We were telling him, ‘Mitch, you've got a chance to be really good.'

"If you put him in positions for him to catch it and you run plays for him, he'll knock it down. He embraces that."

Solomon's range is now from 15- to 18-feet, and he feels comfortable stepping outside the 3-point line and knocking down the shot without hesitating.

"Since my freshman and sophomore year I knew that to be a good post man that I definitely needed to extend my (shooting) range, so I've been working on that pretty extensively for two or three years. This summer, my AAU coaches Rod (Thompson) and Shawn (Williams) encouraged me to step out and be more comfortable around the 3-point line."

Solomon began attracting serious attention when the PWP team traveled to Indianapolis in July and then he backed that performance up with another one at the Great American Shootout in Dallas.

"It was crazy. It was really cool going from having a couple of smaller schools recruiting me to a bunch of Big 12, D-I interest. It was really neat," Solomon said.

Williams and Thompson, the PWP coaches, both played at the University of Tulsa and know talent when they see it. But they wanted to make sure that they weren't overhyping one of their own players in Solomon, so they asked a couple of college coaches to take a look when the team was in Dallas.

"Rod and I played for coach (Bill) Self at Tulsa, so we actually had coach Self look at him in Dallas," Williams said. "We think he can play, tell us what you think? Coach said, ‘yeah, this is a 6-10 guy that can really shoot it.'

"We heard this from Larry Brown (at SMU) and also from coach Self that he's the kind of kid that has the ability if he works, if he really works on his footwork and some other things, that since he shoots it so well, he could definitely be an NBA player. He kind of reminds me of a Keith Van Horn-type player because he's a legitimate 6-10 and rises up on his jump shot."

The Cowboys will probably be without Marcus Smart, Markel Brown and Le'Bryan Nash next season, but that opens the door for newcomers like Solomon to earn playing time as freshmen.

"I'm definitely looking forward to working with coach Ford. He's great at developing guys and getting them ready. It's a good coaching staff," he said. "It would be an awesome experience to be able to come in and be able to contribute to a Big 12 team my freshman year."

Williams says that Solomon is talented but he knows what freshmen go through their first year in a major college program.

"I think it will be a little bit of an adjustment for him. I explain it this way to guys, think of the most exhausting, intense high school game you ever had, the double or triple overtime game, the rivalry game, and that's what practice is like every day in college. But he shoots the ball so well I think he'll have a place," he said.

"When you think of Oklahoma State this year they don't really have a big guy that can shoot the ball outside. That's where I think he'll be able to step in. I think the physicality of it will be a little bit of an adjustment, but as well as he shoots it … I think he'll fit OSU real well because they're more guard heavy and obviously to have someone who can shoot the ball stretches the defense which allows the guys to penetrate and kick.

"Mitch is such a good kid. He'll do whatever you ask him to do. You tell him what to work on and he'll do it. He never says a word or complains. He's a great kid."

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