Interviews

Will Solomon : « I’m not retired from pro basketball »

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A true basketball legend in Europe, the veteran american point guard Will Solomon (6’1, 39 years old) is still a free agent. Fore sure, we should soon review the triple champion of Turkey on the basketball courts overseas, maybe for his last or penultimate challenge. Meanwhile, he gave me some news and talked about his huge career.

Can you introduce yourself?
Hello, I am Will Solomon. I am a point guard playing nowhere at the moment. Ex NBA, Memphis Grizzlies, Toronto Raptors, Sacramento Kings. Basically, I am ready to play.

When did you started playing basketball? What was your basketball path growing up?
I started when I was 12 years old in Hartford, Connecticut. It’s 45 minutes far from New York. I just continue improving my basketball. I got an offer from Clemson University, I played for them during three years and then I entered to the NBA draft after my junior year in College. I led the ACC in scoring, I was All-ACC my sophomore year. I could entered in the draft after my sophomore year but I stayed one more year. Finally, I entered in the draft after my junior year and I have been drafted by Memphis Grizzlies. I played there and I was behind two very good point guards : Jason Williams and Brevin Knight. At that time, I was young and I wanted to play. I put so much into my game. So I continued my career in Europe. I went to Greece my first year, to Aris Thessaloniki and I enjoyed it. I seen a different picture of basketball playing in Europe. I enjoyed it and I stayed in Europe. I wasn’t really focus on the NBA after that.

Do you remember the NBA draft night?
Yes. It was huge for me and my family. Actually, I didn’t go to the draft, I stayed at home and had a big party. All my family and friends, we came there and we celebrated on my behalf getting drafted.

You played in the NBA for few teams and won almost everything, everywhere you played in Europe (France, Greece, Turkey, Israël). So have you been able to realize your childhood dream during your career?
I felt my dream by getting drafted into the NBA. That was a goal of mine and I did that. By just playing basketball at a professional level, that gave me enjoy. That was my dream. I didn’t know I can make dollars that I made in Europe and take care of my family. I was doing basketball from my childhood just for fun. When you take it at a different level, it’s a business. I take it as a business and when you win, you get better and compete. And win championships, it’s like, you want more. So I just practice, practice, practice, practice, practice (laughs).

What is the best basketball experience in your life? And do you have any regrets about your career?
Honestly, it was playing for Fenerbahce. We won so many titles, we were very successful. I had a great time there. We played into the Euroleague, the highest competition in Europe. The fans were incredible, every game was incredible. Winning the championship there the first time for Fenerbahce in the 21th century, it was just amazing.
I have no regrets in my career. If I could did anything different, I would stayed in Europe instead of going back to the NBA. When I left Fenerbahce, going back to the NBA to Toronto Raptors…

Really? The NBA is nevertheless the ultimate goal for much part of basketball players into the world…
For most guys it is a dream, but I don’t know if I was different or… I just wanted to play basketball, honestly. I wanted to play because I worked so hard during the summer time. I wasn’t really satisfy to sit on the bench or playing few minutes in a game. This is where my joy, my happiness come from, this is where I can express myself as a person. I wanted to play 30 minutes a game.

Fans gave you lots of nicknames overseas. Which is your favorite one?
My favorite nickname was « King Solomon », when Fenerbahce fans embraced me. They gave me a lot of confidence, a lot of passion for the game. It helped me to compete harder every time I heard my name like this.

You are 39 years old now and still playing basketball. What is the secret of a such longevity?
It just eat good and taking care of your body. Get the right and proper rest you need to be healthy. And stay away from the alcohol, the drugs, just have a proper nutrition. I gave credits to my wife. She takes care of me very well. Also, I respect and enjoy the game so much. I like practicing everyday to prepare myself and still getting better at this age, so maybe that’s why I can play as long.

Some french basketball websites wrote during the last offseason that you are now retired from pro basketball. What can you say to them?
I’m not retired, I’m still able to play basketball. I had a few offers from Argentina and different places, but I wanted to spend some time with my family because I have not been much in the States these past three years. Now, I think I have to look at the offers from everywhere. I really wasn’t taking any offers at the beginning of the season but I will definitively play this year. I haven’t an official retirement yet. I still have a lot of basketball left in me and I want to show this to people. I have a lot to give to a team, such as a lot of experience. I am just looking to play basketball.

What kind of opportunity are you looking for? And where?
I would like to play in Europe, the places I played before: Turkey, Israel, France. I prefer to play in those places. Hopefully, I can come back to Turkey or France and play. It would be wonderful. Everything is up in the air.

What is currently your daily training program to be in shape and get ready when a team will call you?
I take my son to school at 7 in the morning. Then, after that, I go workout at 8 a.m. every morning. Then, at 12 to 2 p.m. I pick him up to school, come home. He eats something and I go back to workout.

You’ve spent the last four seasons in Antibes, a team localized in the south of France. Before the team and you separated, were you thinking to end your professional career there?
I could have end my career there but I would have play one more year and then probably retired there. But the opportunity wasn’t there, we moved in different directions. They had different directions. That is part of the game and I respect everything about Antibes. It just didn’t happen.

To conclude, what advices can you give to young pro basketball prospects which are obsessed with the NBA and who do not want to hear about Europe or any other destinations overseas?
I would just to tell them to focus on their goals. Anything is possible but I can guarantee you hard work will pay off. It’s just about a right situation. If you have a right situation in Europe, the NBA is always there. Because if you play into Europe, you play in front of the world and you still have to showcase your talents for the NBA. So just keep to have a good attitude and work hard.

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