To put a bow on this college basketball season, we’re once again diving into a classic series of ours where we ask each returning Cyclone to “step into my office” to review the season that was, and take a shot at what next season could look like for them.
Up next is redshirt junior Solomon Young, who cooked up a bounce back year and has one year of eligibility left in his lengthy Cyclone career.
Season at a Glance
Solo ended the year as Iowa State’s 3rd leading scorer at 9.8 points per game and 4th in rebounding at 3.9 per game, but it was a real roller coaster to get there. His 2nd attempt at a junior year began in the starting lineup, but he was a starter in name only. He ceded a lot of time to George Conditt, and lost his spot in the starting lineup early in conference play. Part of the problem seemed to be inconsistent playing time. He’d score between 6-10 points and play around only 20 minutes per game despite being efficient from the floor. His best non-conference performance came in the debacle against Florida A&M, scoring 15 points on 7-8 shooting.
The switch was flipped in the home win over Oklahoma State. Solo broke out for a career high 27 points and 9 rebounds. His offense helped carry the Cyclones to a rare win.
His strong play continued next time out against Auburn, and after playing big minutes and scoring 13 points in the loss at Texas, he re-earned his starting spot. Young was more of an offensive focal point after the injury to Tyrese Haliburton in February. Despite the team’s struggles, he was in double figures in 7 of the last 9 regular season games. It’s plain to see that Solo can handle more offensive responsibility.
As said before, Young averaged just under 10 points per game, which was a career high, and finished the year at just shy of 21 minutes per game. Part of it was being forced to handle a bigger offensive load late in the year without Haliburton in the lineup. Encouragingly, Solo was actually quite efficient, even with an expanded workload. He was 2nd on the team in field goal percentage, and made 78% of his free throws.
What makes his play frustrating at times is the wild inconsistency of his production. Before the Oklahoma State breakout, he went six straight games without even attempting a free throw. We know that he’s capable out to about eighteen feet, but only attempted four three pointers all season. It’s almost like he was more willing to take chances and make mistakes when given more responsibility.
I think Solo is capable of averaging way more than four rebounds per game. Again, the issue was consistency. He had six games of seven or more rebounds, but also had thirteen games of two or fewer rebounds. He’s also a non-factor at setting up teammates, only averaging about 1 assist per game.
Solo has been in the program for a long time now, and we pretty much know what we’ll get from him. He’s capable of playing good defense. He can hit a mid-range jump shot, and will put forth a good effort as a rebounder. He’s virtually no threat to shoot from three. Heading into his senior year, he’ll have to step up as a leader.
The 2021 Cyclones will look a lot different from a roster construction standpoint. A lot of that is due to the youth of the incoming recruiting class, namely 7-foot freshman Xavier Foster. It’s very unlikely that Foster, Conditt, and Young will play at the same time. Conditt is going to get his time, so Young may enter next season as the 3rd big man on the depth chart. Foster has a reputation as a good shooter for his size. Conditt is more of a traditional big man. Fortunately, I think Young can fit alongside either of them. If he plays with Foster, he can bang down low and fight for offensive rebounds. If he plays with Conditt, he can stretch the defense with his mid-range game.
Solo’s task will be to act as a mentor to the talented youngsters, and be a bit of an alpha dog for the team. I hope he stays aggressive offensively. We’ve seen that he can hit jumpers, make free throws, and be an efficient offensive weapon. I wouldn’t anticipate it, but if he can stretch his range out a few more feet to be a threat as a 3 point shooter, he’ll become way more valuable. That’d be my number 1 recommendation for the summer.
His scoring may take a step back as a senior, and he may be stuck around 20 minute per game again, but he’ll be a vital part of the rotation for sure. It might just mean he has to take a step back, and do his work in the behind the scenes. He’s always been a quiet guy, so I’m sure that won’t be a problem.