Feb. 8, 2000
BERKELEY, CA - BY JEFF RHODE
Solomon Hughes, Cal's 6-11, 230-pound sophomore forward/center from Carson, CA, is the Golden Bears protector of the paint because of his shot-blocking prowess. Hughes has averaged nearly one block per game in his two years at Cal. Below is a question and answer session with Cal's young center - Solomon Hughes.
What is your major?
"Sociology. I am following in my father's footsteps. He (Professor Ronald Hughes) chairs the Sociology department at Cal State Northridge."
You chose to attend Cal over Michigan, Florida State, Florida and the University of Massachusetts. How come you came to Berkeley?
"Cal gave me the chance to go away from home without moving too far away. And the academic and athletic reputation of Berkeley stood above all the other schools in my mind."
Your teammate, Dennis Gates, mentioned that you two are competing to see who will graduate first. Who is in the lead?
"I think if anything I will be the one who finishes first. We may finish at the same time. Right now I am two units ahead, so we will see what happens."
"Playing with those guys in the summer has definitely helped us this season. It is a lot easier for us to talk on and off the court. We hang around together all the time so they are not in awe of being here. I think I have made the transition for them easier because I have been here an extra year."
You have added 30 pounds to your frame since last season. How did you manage that?
"I lifted weights all throughout the summer with coach Rice (Cal strength coach Todd Rice). I eat four times a day, plus snacks. And I always try to drink a lot of water. Right now my strategy is to eat for fuel and not for taste."
What has been the highlight of your basketball career thus far?
"Winning the NIT last year in New York was huge. But last summer I had a better highlight. I went to a basketball camp with athletes from all over the nation. Players came from schools like Arizona and Duke. I learned to compete and incorporate my belief in Christianity in games. After 18 years of just playing without a reason, I finally had a reason to play."
What was your strategy during the crucial play against UCLA at Pauley Pavilion when you blocked Jerome Moiso's shot in the waning moments to seal the victory for the Bears?
"I pretty much made a reactionary play against Moiso. I really honestly wasn't expecting him to shoot that early in the possession. I thought he was going to catch it and reverse it, or pass it out to Kopono for a three (Jason Kopono, UCLA's top long-range shooter). It was just a combination of me being in the right position and reacting at the right time. I played him like our coaches told us. I forced him right and played him to his left. The coaches were right and we won the game."
You mentioned that your father works in education. Would you like to pursue a similar career?
"Down the road I would like to teach like my father. But right now I have aspirations to play basketball at the highest level I can reach."
You spent a year at Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia before attending Cal. What was that experience like?
"That was an extremely tough experience, but I made it through the year. It was the biggest transition of my life. I went from waking up leisurely around 8:00 a.m., heading to school and relaxing throughout the day, to waking at 6:15 a.m., marching everywhere, and having to carry a rifle around with me."
Any final thoughts about playing for the Golden Bears?
"First of all I want to say that this is the most fun team I have ever played on. All the guys get along and play well together. I especially like my roommates, Shahar (Gordon), Dennis (Gates) and Donte (Smith). I expect us to go to the tournament this year. I think the wins over USC and UCLA mark a big turning point for us. I think that if we keep our heads focused everything will turn out right."