Last week Hapoel Jerusalem signed American point guard Will Solomon as the team continues its rebuilding process with the hope of returning to its former status as one of the Israeli Basketball League's elite teams.
At 1.87 meters, Solomon has breathtaking natural ability and could become one of the more exciting foreign players playing in the local league in recent years.
Hapoel Jerusalem Coach Sharon Drucker hopes that Solomon, 25, will be the key to his team's resurgence, and the perfect complement to the refortified front-line of Ido Kazikaro, Tunji Awojobi and Moshe Mizrahi.
Solomon is exceptionally quick and athletic, is a decent outside shooter and defender, and a good rebounder for his size.
Solomon, Maccabi Tel Aviv's Sarunas Jasikevicius, and Ironi Nahariya's Steven Smith are the most recent examples of a trend to prefer foreign point guards over the large supply of talented Israeli playmakers.
This trend comes as a result of implementation of the 24-second clock several seasons ago. Most American point guards are considered quicker than their Israeli counterparts in making the transition to offense, and are better equipped to create their own shot once play slows down.
Like many American hoopsters, Solomon has a scorer's mentality and a point guard's body. So while at times he exhibits mesmerizing individual skills, there's a question mark whether he will demonstrate the leadership, maturity and lack of selfishness that Jerusalem is looking for.
Solomon played three years of college ball at Clemson, earning a first-team all-star selection in the Atlantic Coast Conference in two of those seasons.
A product of Hartford, Connecticut, Solomon was recruited by Clemson Coach Rick Barnes (the same coach who almost succeeded in bringing Israel's Oded Katash to the team) to replace point guard stalwart Terrell McIntrye. But Barnes moved to Texas before Solomon arrived at Clemson. In his first year, he was used sparingly by coach Larry Shyatt, averaging 6 points a game and playing both guard positions.
Although never considered a potential star, Solomon became such a prolific scorer averaging 21 points a game, in his second year at Clemson and was permanently moved to the shooting guard position.
Solomon's third year at Clemson was similar to the previous one. He averaged over 20 points a game, and since he was the only real scoring threat on a weak team, was often a marked man.
Like far too many college stars these days, Solomon decided to forgo his remaining college eligibility to enter the NBA draft despite being advised by his coach and NBA scouts not to make that decision.
He was chosen in the second round of the 2001 draft by the Memphis Grizzlies, but because of his height, he was forced to return to the point guard position.
Solomon never successfully made the adjustment to point guard or to the NBA. Two years ago, in his only season with Memphis, he averaged 5 points a game in 62 games, but shot poorly and was unimpressive for the most part.
Last year, Solomon began his European career with a positive start. He averaged 20 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds a game in leading Aris Thessaloniki to a successful season.
This summer, Hapoel Jerusalem almost signed small forward Cedric Henderson, a talented player who also never made it in the NBA. However, the deal, which would have given Jerusalem a formidable lineup, never panned out.
But with the addition of the exciting Solomon, the team should also be in for some exciting times.
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