Calvin Solomon brings an arsenal of attributes to the UTEP men’s basketball team.
He’s a big (6-foot-7) battler happy to use his physical frame, he has a commitment to defense and he brings three years of Division I experience from Stephen F. Austin to a retooling UTEP team.
As much as anything, what Solomon represents is someone who has won everywhere he’s been.
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He played in two state tournaments for Houston-area powerhouse Klein Forest, then was part of two conference championship teams at SFA.
Solomon expects to look at the scoreboard at the end of the game and see the team he represents ahead. That’s what the forward brings to the Miners, who take on their arch-rivals New Mexico State on Saturday night at the Don Haskins Center.
“My end goal is just to win no matter what, by any means,” Solomon said. “That’s been my mindset ever since I started playing — win. I won a lot of games at Stephen F. Austin, it was kind of hard leaving there, but it was a business decision. I felt like I had to move on.”
When he made the decision to enter the transfer portal and leave East Texas, where he was a two-hour drive from home, for El Paso, a two-hour flight from home, he opted for some familiarity.
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Specifically, the coach who recruited him to SFA, Jeremy Cox, is now at UTEP. Cox, however, was initially reluctant to poach one of his former players from his former school.
At this point, SFA coach Kyle Keller intervened.
“Coach Keller actually told me, ‘He’s your type of guy, you have a great relationship with him,'” Cox said. “Coach (Joe) Golding and I were at an event in Dallas and coach Keller told me he’d like us to recruit him, he’d like him to be at UTEP.
“We got after (Solomon), worked at it a little bit. He wanted to be around us. He knew the system, he knew coach Golding, he knows what we stand for and he had a comfort level.”
Said Golding: “Calvin wanted to be coached by coach Cox again and I think he understands me, what I’m about, our culture. He thought it was the right fit. We’re fortunate and lucky he trusted us with his last two years.”
That marked the first time Golding had a comfort level around Solomon. SFA and Golding’s old Abilene Christian team butted heads in the Southland Conference and later the WAC and Golding figured out he’d rather be coaching Solomon rather than coaching against him.
“We try to get him in foul trouble early to get him out of the gym,” Golding recalled. “We tried to get him to face some adversity, get him frustrated, but he’s a talented player. I’m glad he’s on my team now.
“He’s an alpha dog. We call him around here a street dog. He’s a survivor, he’s tough, he brings that mentality each and every day to our team. His physicality, he’s a really good player. He’s experienced, he’s mature, this is his fourth year of Division I basketball and I think all of those are positive attributes that build a culture we want here.”
Solomon remembers “talking trash” to Golding, though not the type of thing that would particularly rile him.
“Little stuff, just talking to throw him off,” Solomon said with a laugh. “Coach G was full of energy. I remember coach G because we used to go at it a lot.”
Solomon came off the bench his freshman year in 2019-20, then started the next two seasons. Last year he did a bit of everything for the WAC regular-season tri-champs (New Mexico State was one of the teams the Lumberjacks tied with), averaging 9.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.7 steals and a team-leading 1.0 blocks.
Solomon started UTEP’s opener at Texas and contributed seven points, four rebounds and two steals in 22 minutes while serving as a defensive stopper.
“I bring energy,” Solomon said. “When people are down, I feel like I can pick people up. Hustle plays, going hard every play, even when people stop I feel like I go harder.”
Cox saw that four years ago when he first saw him play for Klein Forest against Klein.
“They were down about 15 going into the fourth quarter, he picked up (guarding) the ball full court and just turned the game around by himself on the defensive end,” Cox recalled. “They couldn’t even get the ball across half court. (Klein Forest) came back from 15, went to overtime and won the game.
“We felt like he was our type of guy: He was a winner, he moved his feet, he guarded, he stood for the stuff we stood for.”
That makes him a cultural fit at UTEP where he’s quickly made a mark as a starter.
“I’m learning with my new team, adjusting with the guys,” he said. “We’ve been here a few months and I feel like we’re bonding together and gelling. I know coach Cox through my freshman year and sophomore year so it wasn’t hard to come back here and trust the process.
“El Paso is nice, I like the city. I go sightseeing, I like the mountains, as a school UTEP is cool. I like it a lot. This is a big change, I was two hours away from home, now I’m far from home. But it’s been great since I’ve been here, like a second home.”
Solomon will experience a game in his new home for the first time Saturday against New Mexico State.
Bret Bloomquist can be reached at 915-546-6359;; @Bretbloomquist on Twitter.
What: A Division I men’s basketball game
Where, when: 7 p.m. Saturday, Don Haskins Center
TV, radio: CUSAtv, 600 ESPN El Paso
Tickets: Starting at $9.15. Fewer than 2,000 remain, game is likely to sell out


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