AMES — Solomon Young has endured more than his fair share of injuries while at Iowa State.
He had a broken hand as a freshman, a torn groin as a sophomore, then a tear in his abdomen which required surgery. As a junior, he had shoulder surgery and this offseason, men’s basketball coach Steve Prohm said Young had a surgery to clean up his knee.
Young may end up more machine than man by the end of his basketball playing days with all of the surgeries he’s had to endure.
But through it all, Young has a chance to be one of the best big men in the Big 12 next season.
In just 20 minutes of playing time per game, the 6-foot-8, 240-pound Young averaged 10.1 points and 4.0 rebounds for the Cyclones. But late in the Big 12 season — after Tyrese Haliburton’s injury — Young really stepped up his game.
Against Oklahoma State, he had 27 points and nine rebounds, missing just one shot. Against Kansas State, he had 20 points and three rebounds and missed only two shots. Against Texas, he had 17 points and five rebounds, again missing just one shot. In all, Young had eight games in Big 12 play where he shot better than 50 percent from the field and scored 10-plus points.
Young’s ability to give Iowa State that kind of production every game could determine what kind of season the Cyclones have.
“He needs to take another big step in terms of leadership,” Prohm said. “He just had his knee scoped so he’s the one player we have in Ames doing a little bit of rehab and getting his knee right. When Haliburton went out last year, Solomon really stepped up and gave us a true post presence and we could rely on him to be efficient.
“He’s been around a long time. He’s been a part of two championships, he’s won at Kansas — we need his toughness and leadership.”
The center position is the one area where Iowa State has a few known, proven Big 12 players.
The other is junior George Conditt, who started a few games last year when Young was playing inconsistently at the end of nonconference and the beginning of conference play.
Conditt is a different player than Young at 6-10 and 220 pounds. Conditt had the ability and quickness to be an all-conference level defender blocking and changing shots. While Young’s offensive game is more polished around the rim with jump hooks and a solid mid-range jump shot, Conditt excels in the pick and roll.
“When the NBA guys and scouts come through here, (Conditt) is one of the two or three guys that they always ask about,” Prohm said. “You look at his length and you look at his size — he’s tremendous in his understanding on how to play in the pick and roll and he has great hands. He has to get bigger and stronger this offseason and continue to up his commitment level so he’s focused on a day-to-day basis. I’ve been really pleased with what he’s done this offseason and I look forward to him having a great summer.”
Conditt dominated lesser teams but struggled when Iowa State entered the meat of the Big 12 schedule. Conditt had 16 blocks in Iowa State’s first four games and 15 blocks in Iowa State’s 18 conference games.
If he can get his conference-game production closer to the level of his early-season production, Iowa State will have a formidable duo inside.
And that doesn’t even mention incoming freshman and prize recruit Xavier Foster.
Foster is again different from Young and Conitt. He’s 7-foot but he has the ability to step outside the 3-point line and knock down shots. The Oskaloosa prep is also athletic enough and agile enough to protect the paint.
“He’s a guy with length and great size,” Prohm said. “But he has the ability to stretch the defense. He shoots the 3 with really, really good confidence and a great stroke. He’s also got the ability to really rim run and really protect the paint.
“He’s a guy we’re looking to come in on campus and do some great things for us. Great to get a really good in-state player from just up the road.”
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With the depth and quality of Iowa State’s bigs, Prohm will have the option to either play four guards or to play with two bigs and do so interchangeably depending on matchups.
“I feel really good about our five spot heading into next year with Solomon and George Conditt as well as our young guy Xavier Foster coming into play,” Prohm said.