Feb 7, 2018; Lubbock, TX, USA; Iowa State Cyclones forward Solomon Young (33) goes to the basket against Texas Tech Red Raiders guard Justin Gray (5) in the first half at United Supermarkets Arena. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — Iowa State forward Solomon Young’s been down this nearly-finished, patched-up path before.
This is his third painful trip, to be exact.
A broken bone in his left hand forced the talented big man to miss five games his freshman season. Two tears in his left meniscus required surgery late in his sophomore campaign, forcing him to sit out the final six games. Then a strained groin sustained in October also needed surgical repair, shelving him for the first 11 games this season.
Solomon Young talks about finally being nearly 100 percent healthy in this CFTV. pic.twitter.com/9GGPPAkmBp
— CycloneFanatic.com (@cyclonefanatic) December 17, 2018
But Young — along with star guard Lindell Wigginton — is about to make another healthy return, quite possibly in Friday’s 6 p.m. nonconference finale against Eastern Illinois at Hilton Coliseum.
“It’s frustrating but what’s done is done,” Young said of his multitude of maladies. “I can’t stay down, or let that get in the way, because, I mean, you’ve gotta keep going, so that’s just what I’ve been doing.”
He’ll be eased back into games, Cyclones coach Steve Prohm said. So will Wigginton, ISU’s top returning scorer from a year ago (16.7 points per game).
There’s no reason to rush, obviously, given ISU’s 9-2 start fueled by new, but experienced transfers such as Marial Shayok and Michael Jacobson, as well as gifted rookies such as Talen Horton-Tucker and Tyrese Haliburton, among others.
“I think you’ve got to ease them in,” Prohm said. “I don’t think it’s just to put a lighting rod to what we’ve been doing right now, but to ease them in, because I’d love to get them up and down the floor and get them some reps. I’m going to meet with them this week.”
Both Wigginton and Young have yet to practice fully in transition, instead working primarily in half-court offensive sets.
That is expected to change once the Cyclones engage in a full practice on Tuesday in preparation for the hot-and-cold Cougars (6-5), who are coming off an impressive win over Bradley.
“Another team that can spread you out, five out, and make shots,” Prohm said. “So we’ve got to get our energy level better defensively.”
Prohm said shortcomings in transition and ball screen defense have cropped up more frequently lately — and most notably in a 98-84 loss at Iowa.
Both Young and Wigginton, whether “eased in” or not, offer help on both fronts.
Haliburton — Wigginton’s roommate — called him perhaps ISU’s best perimeter defender. Young, Prohm reiterated Monday, would have been a huge help at Iowa, where the Cyclones were out-toughed on the boards and in the paint.
“He’s a resilient kid,” Prohm said. “he’s a high character kid. He brings a physicality and toughness up front that can change the game at times. I thought the Iowa game was game that, you walked off there and that was a game you knew you probably missed him.”
Wigginton, of course, is an elite talent on the offensive end — both beyond the arc and at the rim.
Haliburton said once he’s fully ensconced in the rotation again, every aspect of ISU’s game will improve.
“Guys just gotta adapt to their role and star in it, really,” said Hailburton, who’s done that already, averaging 8.3 points, 4.4 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 2.2 steals his freshman season. “Like you said, Lindell’s probably gonna be option number one and teams are gonna focus on him and that’s just gonna leave a lot of us more open. That will get Marial more open looks, Talen, me, Nick (Weiler-Babb), Mike — it will get everyone more looks so it will help a lot.”
So will Young’s presence in the paint. Prohm said he’s “probably chomping at the bit” to get back out there — and he’s certainly right.
“I’m ready to go,” Young said.