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Solomon Jones Post-Draft: From TBO and SPT

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Some good stuff form our local writers on Solomon after being selected...teams intersted, etc.


USF's Jones Makes School History

By BRETT McMURPHY The Tampa Tribune

Published: Jun 29, 2006

TAMPA - At last year's Big East media day in Madison Square Garden, University of South Florida senior center Solomon Jones guaranteed the Bulls would return to New York for the Big East Tournament.

The Bulls didn't make it back, but Jones did in a way when his name echoed inside the Garden when he was selected Wednesday by the Atlanta Hawks in the second round of the NBA draft.

Jones, the 33rd player chosen overall, is the highest NBA draft pick in USF history.

"It's just a blessing, a dream come true when you hear your name called," said Jones, who watched the draft from his home in Mount Dora. "Not too many people get this opportunity. But it doesn't stop here. I have to keep working."

Jones admitted he broke down and cried when selected.

"It's great," he said. "I'm speechless. Who wouldn't? To come up from a nobody and have a chance to be a somebody. I'm just so excited."

Despite USF's struggles last season, Jones (6-10, 230) averaged 13.2 points, 9.8 rebounds and 3.1 blocks. He was an honorable mention All-Big East selection. His draft status skyrocketed when he was named MVP of the Portsmouth (Va.) Invitational and in Orlando set an NBA draft camp record with a vertical jump of 12 feet, 4 inches.

"Anytime you go through a difficult year, you look for positives and he was one of the few bright spots we had consistently," USF coach Robert McCullum said. "Teams liked his athleticism, his wingspan and reach; the way he runs the floor. Those are the things that really stood out - and he has tremendous upside."

McCullum said Atlanta told him if Jones was available at No. 33, the Hawks would draft him. In all, about 10 NBA teams contacted McCullum and he was told Jones could be selected anywhere between No. 18 (Washington) to No. 50 (Charlotte). The New York Knicks, who had the No. 20 and 29 picks, called twice Wednesday, including 45 minutes before the draft began.

USF assistant and former Daytona Beach Community College coach Frank Burnell, who recruited Jones from Mount Dora High to DBCC in 2002, wasn't surprised Jones was selected.

"I always thought he had a chance [at the NBA]," Burnell said. "He's long and athletic and was a kid who would do whatever you asked him to do. The only negative was he was so thin."

Jones became USF's first NBA draft choice in 20 years (Curtis Kitchen, sixth round, Seattle, 1986) and only the seventh NBA draft pick in school history.

Nineteen of 30 second-round picks last year made NBA rosters, which bodes well for Jones' chances.

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Welcome back to the NBA Draft

To put Wednesday night in perspective, the last time USF had a player taken in the NBA Draft, Solomon Jones was close to his second birthday.

Plenty of mock drafts didn't have the USF senior among the 60 players drafted, but Jones made it by a landslide, going to the Atlanta Hawks with the 33rd pick. That makes him USF's highest draft pick ever, and the Bulls' first since Curtis Kitchen went in the sixth round in 1986. (How on earth did they have six rounds, with fewer teams in the league even?)

Turns out, the Bulls had it on good authority that Jones might go to Atlanta. You might need some scratch paper for this: USF assistant Frank Burnell, who coached Jones as a freshman at Daytona Beach Community College as well, played professionally in Puerto Rico, and his coach there was Herb Brown, now a Hawks assistant. So Brown called Burnell this week and assured him that if Jones was there at 33, Atlanta would take him.

Jones could have gone higher, of course. Robert McCullum told me he talked with the Knicks -- who picked 29th -- around 7 p.m. on Wednesday, after talking with team officials for about 20 minutes earlier Wednesday. The Nets had worked him out Monday and Tuesday, but Jones didn't know he'd been drafted until deputy commissioner Russ Granik stepped to the podium and announced his name on national TV.

What's crazier is that after Jones was taken, only one more Big East player was chosen. Look at the names of the league stars who weren't drafted -- Cincinnati's Eric Hicks, Louisville's Taquan Dean, Mike Gansey and Kevin Pittsnogle from West Virginia, Rashad Anderson from Connecticut, Georgetown's Brandon Bowman, Syracuse's Gerry McNamara and Villanova's Allan Ray.

I actually managed to talk to not one, but three Solomon Joneses on Wednesday night. I'd talked to Jones on Wednesday afternoon, making sure it was OK to call his cell after he got drafted, so I'd have a quote or two for a short story. But five minutes after he'd been picked, his cellphone mailbox was full, and 45 minutes later, with deadline fast approaching, I tried what I thought was listed as his parents' house in Mount Dora, remembering his father's name is Solomon as well.

Instead, I got his grandfather, the original Solomon (well, not ... you know what I mean) who was still up at 11:40 (celebrating, no less) and glad to give me his son's phone number. There, Solomon II happily answered the phone, called "Three!" to get his son to the phone, and everything was fine from there.

Now second-round draft picks don't get guaranteed contracts, so Jones will have to make Atlanta's roster in order to get a huge payday. But the league minimum for a rookie next season is set at $412,718, and Granik said Wednesday that 19 second-rounders stuck with their teams last season.

Last year's No. 33 pick was LSU's Brandon Bass, who was drafted by Charlotte. He didn't make the team initially, playing for its NBDL affiliate in Tulsa, but was called up for the final 29 games, averaging just under three points per game.

Atlanta is young and talented in the frontcourt -- this year's top pick, Duke's Shelden Williams, is 6-9 and 250, and last year's No. 2 overall pick, North Carolina's Marvin Williams, is 6-9 and 230 and actually two years younger than Jones. Starter Al Harrington, himself only 26, is 6-9 and 245, averaging 18.6 points per game, though he's an unrestricted free agent, potentially gone this summer, and Shelden's selection certainly points toward that. Another starter, 20-year-old Josh Smith, a Jones-like 6-9 and 225, was fourth in the league in blocks last year. Making this roster won't be easy, and having Harrington leave is a good first step for Jones' chances to find a spot on the Hawks' bench.

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