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#6 Dale Solomon | 10 Greatest VT Players of All Time

#6 Dale Solomon | 10 Greatest VT Players of All Time

Each Friday we will count down the 10 greatest basketball players in the history of Virginia Tech. This week we look at the most unappreciated star in Hokie history...

Past Entries:

#10 Bill Matthews

#9 Jeff Allen

#8 Zabian Dowdell

#7 Ace Custis

THIS WEEK:

Dale Solomon | 6’8″ Center | 1978-82

Dale Solomon

Career Numbers:

  • Points: 2136 (4th)
  • Scoring Average: 18.4 (9th)
  • Field Goals Made: 825 (3rd)
  • Field Goal %: .567 (2nd)
  • Free Throws Made: 486 (3rd)
  • Rebounds: 856 (7th)

Of Note:

  • Inducted into the VT Sports Hall of Fame: 1994
  • Named to the All-Decade Metro Conference Team: 1980s
  • First Team All-Metro Conference: 1982
  • First Team All-Metro Conference: 1981
  • First Team All-Metro Conference: 1980
  • First Team All-Metro Conference: 1979
  • Metro Conference Freshman of the Year: 1979
  • Metro Conference Tournament MVP: 1979

Why He’s in the Top 10:

Uh, did you read the ‘Career Numbers’ and ‘Of Note’ bullets up above?  Yeah, Dale Solomon was pretty good.  And he was pretty darn good from the moment he first stepped on the Cassell court.

After failing to qualify out of high school, Dale spent a year at Fork Union Military Academy before heading to Virginia Tech.  In Dale’s freshman year, he burst on to the scene like no other Hokie, in Tech’s first year in the Metro Conference.  He led a really good Virginia Tech team in scoring with 17.8 ppg, and still owns the VT record for most points as a freshman with 534.  At the end of the regular season, he was named the Metro Freshman of the Year and to the All-Metro First Team (that’s for all players, not just freshmen).   Pretty good year, right?  Well, he wasn’t done there.  In the Metro Conference Tournament he led the Hokies to victories over cincinnati, #13 louisville, and florida state to capture the Metro crown.  Dale was rewarded by being named the Tournament MVP.  Solomon and VT captured their 22nd win of the season over jacksonville in the ncaa tournament first round, before their season was ended by Larry Bird and the #1 indiana state sycamores.

Dale did not have a sophomore slump the next year.  In 1979-80 he averaged 16.7 ppg and once again was First Team All-Metro (OK, he was All-Metro all four years so I’m going to save my fingers after this).  Tech once again made the ncaa tournament, this time with an at-large bid (more on that in the ‘Team Record’ section below).  Dale spearheaded a miraculous comeback, helping the Hokies overcome an 18-point halftime deficit and win in overtime against western kentucky.  But Tech fell to Isiah Thomas’s #7 indiana hoosiers in the Second Round and Tech’s season ended at 21-8.

Solomon probably enjoyed his best year his junior season, but that was also the worst year of his Virginia Tech tenure.  Dale averaged 21.0 ppg, his high while at VT.  Solomon’s jump in scoring had a lot to do with his progression from the line.  Dale shot “just” 54.9% from the field (the lowest percentage of his career), but he was all but automatic from the line.  Solomon hit 167 of 196 free throws, good for 85.2% which is still a record for a Virginia Tech junior.

Dale’s final year the team was much better thanks to Al and Perry Young (unrelated) and Solomon was as good as ever.  Solomon averaged 18.2 ppg, hit 59% of his field goals, led the team in blocks, albeit that was with just 16 rejections, and led the Hokies back to the postseason.  VT won at home over fordham in their NIT opener, then at ole miss, before falling to Dominique Wilkins in the NIT Quarterfinals*.  Solomon became the first player in Metro history to be named First Team All-Metro all four years.  Dale was so good, he was even featured in a Sports Illustrated article his senior year: A Hokie Who Isnt Hokey

Solomon was selected in the 3rd Round of the NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1982 NBA Draft, though he did not make the Sixers squad.  He went on to play professionally in Italy.

*How’s that for a gruesome threesome to lose to in the postseason — Larry Bird, Isiah Thomas, and Dominique Wilkins — all three made the NBA’s Top 50 All-Time Players List.

Greatest Game:

For Dale it was three games – victories over cincinnati 80-74, #13 louisville 72-68, and florida state 68-60 – in the 1979 Metro Conference Tournament.  Solomon’s efforts, as a freshman, no less, garnered him the Tournament MVP honors and gave Virginia Tech their only ever conference championship to date.

Team Record:

  • Overall: 78-41
  • Metro Conference: 22-16 (won the 1979 Metro Tournament Championship)
  • ncaa tournament: 2-2 (lost to Larry Bird’s indiana state team in the 2nd Round of the 1979 ncaa’s and Isiah Thomas’s indiana team in the 1980 2nd Round of the ncaa tournament)
  • NIT: 2-1 (lost to Dominique Wilkins and georgia in the 1982 NIT Quarterfinals)

Before you say “big deal” to the fact Dale was All-Metro all four years, keep in mind the college conference landscape was a lot different back in the late ’70s and early ’80s.  With Tech joining the Metro in 1978-79 (Dale’s freshman year), the young conference had seven teams: florida state, cincinnati, memphis state (now memphis), louisville, st. louis, tulane, and VT.  If you notice, four of those seven teams (fsu, cincy, louisville, and VT) are now in BCS conferences.

Plus, there were no ‘super’ conferences at that time.  There was no ‘Big 12′, those teams were in the Southwest Conference and the Big 8.  The ACC had just eight teams.  The Big(12)Ten had… get this… 10 schools (imagine that).  The Pac 8 had just expanded to the Pac 10 in 1978.  And the Big East had just been founded in 1979 with seven schools (rutgers and holy cross actually turned down their invitations).  Trust me when I say the Metro was a legitimate basketball conference, with louisville making the Final Four three times between 1980 and 1983 (winning the title in 1980), and memphis constantly hitting the rankings (and making the Final Four in 1985).

Getting to my point, don’t write off Tech’s 22-9, 21-8, 15-13, and 20-11 records as being because of soft schedules.  Dale was facing top notch competition on a regular basis between their Metro slate and Ralph Sampson’s uva squads.

The proof was in the pudding in 1980.  Despite losing in the first round of the Metro Conference Tournament, Tech received an at-large bid to the big dance.  Keep in mind, the ncaa tournament only took 48 teams back then (they expanded from 40 to 48 after Dale’s freshman year).  So the committee, at least back then, thought the Hokies were legit.  The Hokies earned that respect by overcoming a 48-30 halftime deficit and defeating the host hilltoppers of western kentucky 89-85 in overtime before falling to indiana in the round of 32.

And, when you only have one conference tournament championship in your school’s history, you certainly don’t want to dog your conference.  So let’s enjoy that 1979, hard earned in a hard conference.

Summary:

Without a doubt, Dale Solomon is the most unappreciated player in Virginia Tech basketball history.  In fact, I’m probably selling him short by not having him in the top five (I originally had him at #4 but have since dropped him down two spots). Dale was First Team All-Metro all four years, even as a freshman.  He was the Metro Tourney MVP in ’79, his freshman year, leading Tech to their (still) only ever conference title of any kind.  Dale led the Hokies to the postseason in three of his four years, including two ncaa tournament trips, winning their opener both times.    Solomon still ranks 4th in scoring all time.

Now you may ask, “Why isn’t he in the top five?”  For me, it came down to the fact that while Solomon was a fantastic scorer and led the Hokies all four years, he never once led Tech in rebounds any of his four seasons, despite being a forward/center.  Dale led the Hokies in blocks his senior year, but that was with just 16, less than one per game.  He wasn’t diverse enough, not a big enough stat stuffer, to merit being in the top five.  And perhaps most of all, he was a quiet superstar.  Too quiet.  And perhaps that has caused the buzz around his playing days to long since fade and his legacy drift from our memories.  Regardless, he was a heck of a player and someone the Hokies could use today in the low post.

Article from 2005 on Dale Solomon: Bay Weekly article

Dale Solomon - 2005

This post was written by:

- who has written 1216 posts on Tech Hoops.

Niemo is a member of the VT Class of '98. While not a professional journalist by any stretch, Niemo analyzes and breaks down every minute of Hokie hoop action. He also researches topics of interest such as Hokie recruits, program revenue, statistical data on the team, previews VT opponents, and discusses his favorite bourbons/Scotches. In addition to his passion for Hokie hoops, Niemo has attended 126 straight VT football home games (every game since '94), eclipsing the 100 mark in September of '09 and recently attended his 20th consecutive VT/uva game. During the final home basketball game of his senior year, he was brought onto the court and was awarded 2 passes to the Atlantic 10 Basketball Tournament in Philly during a timeout for being a "Super Fan" during his time at VT. The Hokie Bird made the award on behalf of Athletic Director Jim Weaver. Niemo was known to be in the front row of every home game with his familiar red afro hairdo.

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  • chrishokie

    I graduated in 1980, and saw Dale play a lot. He was my favorite player. He was much like Jeff Allen in that once he got the ball on the low post he was nearly automatic. But, he was also a good outside shooter and great at drawing fouls. The game seemed easy for him and he often looked like a man among boys, even as a freshman. We also had Wayne Robinson, who spent some time in the NBA, and they were a formidable front court. The other thing that made Dale a fan favorite was his on court personna. He was always cool and smiled often. He looked like he was having fun, regardless of the situation, in contrast to the stars from our most recent team. I loved basketball but didn’t fully appreciate the importance of defense at that time. Looking at his stats now your notes about his lack of overall stat stuffing may mean he wasn’t a great defensive player. Maybe his quietness and relaxed personna ((lack of intensity?) translated to him taking some time off on the defensive end (would also explain his relatively low rebound total for a big forward with his skills). I am certainly not accusing here, just speculating. He was a big, strong guy with great balance but I don’t remember him having the athleticism or explosiveness of Jeff Allen. He must have been double teamed a lot in the low post. I don’t remember if he passed well out of that situation. Do you have any assist numbers for him?

    It was great reliving the Solomon era with this article. He is a Hokie legend. Thanks Niemo.

    • Niemo

      Chris – it is HARD finding stats on guys from the pre-internet days. Haven’t found any stats on his assists. His Jr Year FT% is what stunned me. Seems like that was a bit of a novelty, but I can’t find his FT% from the other years.

  • RK in Roanoke

    I had Dale at #3 on my list. But I also had Ace at #5. My guess is that you and I will differ on where to put Malcolm. Might be the 10 year age difference. In my mind Dale Solomon led to Dell Curry led to Bimbo Coles. Dale was still a legend when I was going through VT and you could see in the play of guys like Perry Young how much he led with quiet example.

  • Techman

    I always considered Dale to be Tech’s best player ever (although I really didn’t know too much about the player’s before my time there, graduated in ’77). The first time I saw Dale play was in a game at ODU, which was maybe his third game for VA Tech. Dale scored 33 points against Mark West who went on to become one of the best shot blockers in the NBA. You had to see Dale’s game in order to appreciate it. He had great hands and almost never fumbled the basketball and a soft touch on his shot. I think the best game I saw him play in was later in his career when he outplayed Derek Smith at Louisville for a big win.

  • the Becker Boys…

    Thanks Niemo for this great, great, great article…!!
    I am actually the mother of Dales two sons…Mateo and Enzo.
    Dale never really talked about his past in basketball…..I tried to “google” and nothing came up…until today…!I was always curious to learn about his past and what I should tell my boys about their dad ( we split last year) and now I have this MEGA article to give them.

    Many many thanks

    Fabiana Becker

    • Niemo

      You’re welcome. He is a LEGEND in VT basketball history.

  • http://www.coachhouser.com Tom Houser

    Dale Solomon isn’t underappreciated by me. I sat in Cassell in ’79 and ’80 and watched him dominate. It was a pleasure to see. So graceful. I have judged all Va Tech players since against Dale Solomon. Congrats on a great career. Tom Houser, VT c/o ’80.

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