Avinash Kunnath: One giant adventure.
Freshman year: He becomes a spark plug off the bench. He has some solid moments (particularly in the crazy UCLA comeback at Pauley). His free throw struggles keep him from playing too much.
Sophomore year: He becomes the starting center his sophomore season. He makes our team better defensively, but due to offensive struggles is often benched for Robert Thurman. He gets suspended for a crucial San Diego State loss, then gets suspended indefinitely in January. Biggest what-if of Solomon's career is whether that 2012 Cal team wins the Pac-12 with him in the lineup, and whether we make a decent tournament with him.
Junior year: Makes even bigger strides defensively and even improves his free throw percentage, but his inability to play in the post again means plenty of Thurman. However Monty can't keep him off the court because his defensive presence is too important. But he can't post up, which means Thurman and Solomon have this strange juggling act (do they need to score more, or do they need stops more?) depending on what Cal needs at that point in the game.
But despite regular season struggles, he does play really well in the NCAA tournament against UNLV and Syracuse, including a notable 22-14 performance. When the light shined brightest on Solomon, he played his best (as he would do so a year later against number one).
Senior year: Becomes one of the best rebounders in the country. Finally manages to avoid foul trouble for the most part. Is probably the best performer on the court in upsetting Arizona. Cal might have been able to upset Syracuse if he didn't break his nose against Arkansas; they sure couldn't handle him a few months earlier.
But his free throw shooting regresses (front end of 1-and-1s become a recurring nightmare), and he still is very limited in the post. Pac-12 offenses are savvier this year, and take advantage of the switching defense, and force Solomon out into the perimeter, and the defense takes plenty of steps backward in the final month of the season. Solomon scores under 10 points per game in 9 of his final 14 games as a Bear, and Cal goes 1-8 in those games, costing themselves a tournament bid. This time, there is no Thurman to bail him out, meaning there is no good big inside for Monty to go to for easy points, and our team just ran out of steam.
So there's a lot of good that Solomon provided. There's a lot of exasperation too. That was a good way to describe my Cal basketball experience the last few seasons. Good. And exasperating.
Leland Wong: I have a great deal of respect for Solomon for the career path he's been on at Cal. He struggled early on with balancing his athletic commitments with the academic rigors of UC Berkeley, leading to his suspension for being academically ineligible for the second half of his sophomore season.
Instead of taking the easy way out and giving up, Solomon persevered to recover academically and athletically, becoming a huge asset for the team, culminating in a stellar senior season where he averaged a double-double per game.
Solomon's ability to rise above this adversity and not just weather the storm, but to become a key weapon for the team shows that he has the true Berkeley spirit.
Ruey Yen: Enigmatic, that the word that came to mind when I think of Richard Solomon. There is no doubt about his athleticism (see the karate kick in the 0:56 mark of this video), but I think it is fair to say that Cal fans expected more out of him during his Cal career.
The expectation given his size and athleticism has always been that Solomon should average a double-double easily. While he did eventually reach that level in his senior year, it took years of him playing too far off the basket and that academic ineligibility suspension that prevented him from reach that sooner. I would definitely give him credit, however, for getting academic eligible and remain on the team when the sad expectation for a typical student-athlete now is that he/she would just transfer to a lesser academic school to keep on playing.
Part of this not quite reaching his potential storyline for Richard Solomon, also has to do in great part to Coach Mike Montgomery's great track record (mostly at Stanfurd) in producing quality big men. That is perhaps what made it kind of shocking that it took so long before Solomon finally decides to play as a big man and work on improving his post moves than play as a really tall and long small forward.
Nevertheless, Richard Solomon is a big part of Cal men's basketball's success for 3+ seasons. He showed how dominant he could be in the NCAA tournament game against Syracuse and he's a big what-if factor for Cal losing to Syracuse this past fall (a win there would surely cemented the Golden Bears' hold of a NCAA tournament spot that they let slip late in the season). We will always have the crowd pleasing and momentum shifting dunks (and some big blocks) to remember Richard Solomon by for his time representing the Golden Bears on the basketball floor.
Nick Kranz: I love Richard Solomon. It's not necessarily rational, but I've loved his style of play all throughout his turbulent, up-and-down Cal career. Hey, everybody needs a blind defender, right?
Maybe I loved Solo because he brought so many things to the floor that nobody else on the roster brought. He was Cal's only above average rebounder for most of his tenure. His long arms enabled him to force turnovers on a team that otherwise rarely forced the other team to cough up the ball. He's been one of the few players on the roster who drew frequent fouls.
Sure, there were growing pains. The eligibility debacle certainly set his development back, and he had to learn to embrace his role around the basket, but it's tough to complain about a guy who averaged a double double despite getting significantly more defensive attention with the departure of Allen Crabbe.
Sure, he 'probably' had 'shortcomings.' I'm too blind to see them or want to talk about them. SOLO IN MY <3 4EVA! But every time he came on the floor he brought a skillset that none of his teammates had, and Cal was better for it. And I suspect Cal will struggle without him on the inside next year, as we wait for younger big guys to mature.
boomtho: I really want to avoid this sounding negative, but I think what I'll remember Solomon for the most is the feeling of untapped potential.
There are a ton of positives that I'd like to mention. First, Solomon was an athletic marvel. When he was engaged, he was a tenacious rebounder and a great defender. Offensively, he could contribute in a few different ways - creative scoring, smart spacing and cutting, and decent passing. Solomon also clearly improved year over year, a testament to his coachability and offseason work ethic. He really embraced Montgomery's call before his senior year to limit himself to playing near the basket and cut down his midrange efforts.
With Solomon, though, the negatives were unfortunately never too far away. He drifted in and out of games, committed head-scratching fouls and mistakes, and would have multiple game stretches where it seemed he couldn't retain the gameplan. He appeared to be so talented that his production usually never measured up - maybe that's our fault as fans for projecting false expectations though.
At the end of the day, Solomon was a key cog in a relatively successful multi-year Cal basketball run. I think he's got a chance to play overseas professionally, but at any rate, I wish him best of luck in whatever he does next!
LeonPowe: I'm with Nick on this one.
Oh, I guess I should write more. Look, the guy improved his four years at Cal, he played hard - and even when he had his academic troubles, he worked hard and got eligible again, instead of transferring or going to a JC or something.
Was he inconsistent? Yeah - but so was every college player who wasn't an all time legend. A lot of body language expert fans have knocked him for seeming to be out of it during games - but I never really saw that, nor do I pay that much attention to it. I just chalk it up to a college experience - there were times when I didn't work my hardest on a college assignment or paper or test. On the other hand, he did bring his best performances to the biggest stages - against Louisville. against Syracuse twice. I think if he's healthy the entire year we're an NCAA tournament team. He played hard and he generated dozens, if not hundreds of exciting moments for Cal basketball fans over the last four years, so I would say we're going to miss him.
Scott Chong: Strangely, I think folks are a little tough on Solo. We wanted him to develop into a shot-blocking/rebounding and scoring Beast Mode. He played some D, held it down on the glass, and was an opportunistic scorer. No fault there. His skillset was athleticism as a rebounder. He didn't have the touch around the hoop to carry the team as an inside scorer. You could say the same for most of Cal's centers for the past two decades. Maybe he never emerged as the lottery pick that we all hoped and dreamed he'd become, but he played hard and repped the Blue and Gold. We'll miss him next year.