The Latest Pac-12 Personnel Problems: Richard Solomon and Josh WatkinsPosted by AMurawa on January 18th, 2012
Oh, the headaches of a college basketball coach. Aside from all the things that coaches have to deal with just in terms of practice and games and apart from the inevitable injuries, these guys are also dealing with young men who have often been coddled for much of their adolescence and sometimes experiencing freedoms that they’ve never known before. And, I don’t know about you, but when I was that age, I had some problems with maturity (still do, on my best days at least). Well, immaturity struck again in the Pac-12 today – and twice. First, Utah senior guard Josh Watkins ran afoul of head coach Larry Krystkowiak for the second time this season, and as a result was dismissed from the already moribund Ute basketball team. Later we learned that California sophomore forward Richard Solomon, who had been leading the Golden Bears in rebounding (when not suspended or injured, that is), was ruled academically ineligible and would also miss the rest of the season.
Let’s start with Solomon, who still has a future at Cal, provided he can take care of the academic side of his business between now and next fall. He had seen his minutes go up and down in part because of getting into head coach Mike Montgomery’s doghouse early in the year before injuring a foot. But when he was on the court, he was far and away the Bears’ best rebounder and interior defender, grabbing 27.3% of all defensive rebound opportunities (a number that would have put him in the top 20 nationally, had he played enough minutes to qualify), 14.3% of all offensive rebound opportunities and blocking shots on over 7% of all of his opponent’s two-point field goals (those last two numbers would have had him in the top 100 nationally). Without him, Monty and the Bears face the prospect of going the rest of the way with Harper Kamp, David Kravish, Robert Thurman and Bak Bak manning the paint. Given that Kamp has a history of injury problem, Kravish is a freshman, Thurman is a junior walk-on and Bak has shown more potential than actual output, the frontline problems of the Bears could be the stone that drags the whole team down.
As for Watkins, we can wrap up the former junior college transfer’s career in Salt Lake City. He averaged over 14 points a game last season for the Utes, then upped that number this year, but did so in a largely inefficient way by shooting terrible percentages from the field. He did, however, hand out assists on nearly 50% of his teammate’s made baskets, used more possessions than any other player in the nation, and took more than 36% of his team’s shots. While the fact that those horrible shooting percentages are done and could give Ute fans hope that they will now shift to other more efficient players, you have a hard time looking up and down that roster and finding big offensive threats. And given the fact that Utah lost by 31 points at home to a bad Cal State Fullerton team the last time Watkins was suspended this season, the remainder of this year for the Utes could go from bad to worse. Expect freshman Kareem Storey to get a big boost in minutes at the point, if nothing else, giving him a big head start on taking over a leadership position at the point for next season.