Solomon Alabi has to be the most frustrating player for FSU fans this season. This frustration stems from inconsistent play, a perceived lack of effort during stretches, and a failure to meet overall expectations. Prior to this season, Solomon Alabi was expected to impact games both on the offensive and defensive end of the floor. He was supposed to set the tone early and force teams to adjust their style of play to account for his size and ability. While he has met many of these expectations on the defensive end, his offense has been very up and down during the season. This inconsistency has left Florida State fans wondering which Solomon Alabi will show up not game to game, but quarter to quarter.
Before delving into Solomon's frustrating offense, he must be commended for his outstanding defense during the season. His defensive post presence has forced teams to change their game plan and as the season progressed fewer players attempted to drive into the post. Statistically, he could improve his shot blocking numbers but I attribute that more to offensive players settling for jumpers and tear drops rather than challenging the giant. One part of Solomon's defensive game that he needs to improve is his defensive rebounding. There is no reason he should grab only 2 defensive rebounds against Iona and North Carolina State despite playing more than 27 minutes in both games. He needs to be more of a force on the glass. 3.8 defensive rebounds per game is NOT going to cut it from a 7'1, 250 lb center.
The most frustrating part of Solomon's game is on the offensive end. Some games he looks like the second coming of Kareem, dazzling fans with great footwork, capable hands, and a well rounded game that includes both a variety of post moves and a jumper that is good from 18-20 feet. He compliments this offensive ability with an astounding 80% ft percentage which allows Solomon to stay on the court late into the 4th quarter of close games. This is not the Solomon we usually get though. The Solomon most FSU fans are used to seeing is a big man who plays too nice. A giant who makes a good post move then hesitates, allowing his man to catch up on defense. A supposed focal point of the offense who fades in big games. Its frustrating to watch a player have a 4 game stretch in December of 19.5 ppg on 70+% shooting and then finish up the season with 7.2 ppg on 44% shooting. He often plays like his head isn't in the game. He disappears for long stretches during games and puts up weak shots when he gets the ball.
How can Solomon play so inconsistently on the offensive end? Here's what I believe:
A) Teams make him the focal point of their defensive game plan. They pack the lane and dare the rest of the team to beat us with jump shots. We don't really have the shooter's to spread the floor and give him breathing room to make post moves. He's not capable of being the number 1 option of the offense yet.
2) Our offense sets aren't doing him any favors. We rarely try and work him into pick and rolls to get him mismatches (and actually hit him when he rolls). We run a very stagnant offense which allows defenders to camp out in the lane.
D) Our ball handlers are absolutely terrible at post entry passes. Often Solomon is left in bad position or turns the ball over due to a poor entry pass.
Green) Solomon is too nice. He easily uses his height to overpower short, weak, and less talented centers but tends to collapse against any competent defenders. He plays like it's a pickup game with his friends. That type of attitude might be ok for a guard, but post players need to be gritty. They need to fight for better position, elbow the other players to get space, and have the mentality to dunk on everyone. He doesn't get into foul trouble very often (6 times this season with 4+ fouls and only 1 foul out) and can afford to pick up 1 offensive foul a game trying to establish a presence.
What to hope for in the future...
I'm about 99% sure that Solomon is coming back for at least another year. After his performance this season he is no longer a lotto pick and would be extremely fortunate to be drafted in the top 20. Most draft sites have Favors, Cousins, Aldrich, Whiteside, Donatas Motiejunas, and Greg Monroe ranked ahead of him. Some other sites also have him ranked behind Ekpe Udoh and Larry Sanders. Point is, he would be making a HUGE mistake entering the draft this year.
Solomon has a lot of room to improve. He can fit another 10-15 pounds on his frame.
He may not improve his ppg all that much but he should be able to improve his shooting % up to around 60%. That alone would add another point onto his average. If he can improve enough to warrant 10 touches per game, with 60% shooting he would average around 15.3 ppg. That type of production would help us win a lot more games and is easy enough to achieve with his skill set.
How the team can help Solomon achieve his goals this next year:
A) Improve outside shooting. Having a couple guys dangerous from the outside would open up the post a lot.
2) Play Singleton at the PF more. This would help his game out too. Singleton is fast enough to drive by opposing 4s. Singleton is at least capable from the outside so it should spread the floor more. He is also a good rebounder so we wouldn't be losing much there. I think we force ourselves to play 2 big men all of the time because of our depth. Too often Reid clogs up the lane and doesn't give Solomon enough room to work.
D) Feed Solomon early and often. This will get his confidence up and may keep his mind in the game.
All of this is moot if Solomon doesn't develop a mean streak. He needs to act like he wants it. When he's got a mismatch he needs to demand the ball and when he gets it actually do something with it. Had he been more of a force we would have beaten NC St, Duke, Maryland, and Clemson. We would be the team to beat in the ACC.
Solomon holds the keys to our future. If we want to be a threat for the ACC championship we need Solomon to set the tone and dominate games. Not just on the Defensive end.