Upon reflecting on the tandem he shares with David Kravish, Richard Solomon Cal’s senior forward, summed up their inside dynamism simply, yet perfectly, “We can both get it going offensively and we both love to block shots. I mean when we get going, we can be pretty good.” Solomon continued to explain the the staple of their game with almost childish glee, “We like to rebound. Thats the one thing about us, we like to rebound. When we’re in sync, we’re pretty good.”
And they’re going have to be good and then some amidst a vastly talented Pac-12. The conference which seems to be gaining respect around the country be it on the court or on the gridiron, is stacked this year with three teams currently in the top 25. Oregon, UCLA, and especially Arizona who sits at #5 in AP’s most recent ranking, can serve as the benchmark for this current crop of Golden Bears. Certainly a lofty goal for a team filled with youngsters, but an attainable one after tapping into the mindset of Cal’s veteran bigs. And at the forefront of that mindset, deep inside Cal’s cerebral cortex, is focus.
“I’m more focused coming out. I want to play hard, I want to be efficient, and I want to be better individually and collectively,” Solomon stated with steadfast precision. Kravish reiterated Solomon’s point of view by pointing out a lesson learned from last season’s early success.
“After last year we started like 6 (or) 7 and 0 and we thought we we’re everything and then we had a huge lull. And I think thats one thing we got to focus on, one game at a time no matter what happens in the past is in the past. Build on every performance, build on every game we can. We can’t take what we did for granted,” explained a motivated Kravish.
Solomon is playing in his final year with Cal, while Kravish is a junior and both men know what it is like to taste success and bitter failure. Now, while being the veteran leaders of the team, along with senior point guard Justin Cobbs, imparting that kind of experience will be paramount on a team that has eight underclassmen, five of which are guards. Fortunately for the Bears they have exciting, strong guards like Jabari Bird and Tyrone Wallace, but when head coach Mike Montgomery uses a smaller, less cohesive rotation, the influence both of these men bring will make the difference.
“I need the veterans out there, I need their presence with some of these young guys to help stabilize them,” coach Montgomery said earlier on this season. And that is what Solomon and Kravish are doing on a daily basis. Against Southern Utah, where Montgomery used all thirteen players, Solomon was featured amid a largely inexperienced rotation and did a great job at vocally directing his teammates. Perhaps the one receiving the most support from Solomon is none other than Cal’s other five, freshman Kameron Rooks.
Rooks hails from San Marcos, California and stands majestically tall like the San Marcos Cathedral at 7 feet, albeit lacking the same intricate, ornate, craftsmanship of the building that resides in Venice. Fortunately for him, Solomon is there to help, “I’m just trying to push him as much as I can. This being my last year I want him to just soak everything up, how to play aggressive, he has to use his body and get every rebound. I go at him everyday in practice and just try to make him better. Every time he makes a play, every time he does something I’m in his ear trying to encourage him to just be better,” said Solomon relishing in his advisory role.
Rooks, who is the only player on the roster listed as a center, has had his moments of ineptitude, such as chucking shots that are simply not there, but is slowly coming around because of practice and the knowledge of the college game bestowed onto him, “He’s ten steps ahead to when he first came here. He’s going to be a good player when it’s all said and done,” said Solomon.