The NBA D-League is not a new place for Florida State alum Solomon Alabi, the Nigerian big man was previously assigned four times as a member of the Toronto Raptors.
Now, the big man finds himself in the league once again, this time as a member of the Portland Trail Blazers' affiliate Idaho Stampede. During their 2-12 start and entering Saturday's contest with the Reno Bighorns, the Stampede have been absent of player like Alabi. Now, both of their fortunes may soon change for the better.
In the final game of the Toronto Raptors' 2011-2012 season, Alabi played 40 minutes and relished in the opportunity. He scored 11 points, grabbed 19 rebounds, and had 3 blocks against the
New Jersey Brooklyn Nets. When asked if that performance was a confidence boost for him and his career, Alabi responded as if it were no surprise to him, telling RidiculousUpside.com, "I can do that, I need to play more, and have more minutes."
Saturday night, Alabi came off the bench for the Stampede and logged just under 13 minutes, but he made good use of that time, securing a double-double. The big man tallied 10 points, 10 rebounds, and 1 blocked shot.
Before Alabi's arrival, the Stampede seemed to struggle matching up at the post position. In their last two series, Idaho has had to deal with Fab Melo and Jerome Jordan, both NBA caliber centers. The Red Claws and Bighorns ran numerous successful high pick-and-rolls, and the Stampede's rotations always seemed a step slow. It was a glaring weakness in Idaho's defense, but now with the addition of Alabi, the Stampede may find better success defensively.
Despite the short amount of minutes Alabi played in his first appearance, his presence alone helped disturb Reno's offensive sets, and allowed the Stampede to play with more control and better tempo on the defensive side of the ball. Going forward, he will fit nicely in head coach Mike Peck's rotation, and help Idaho in an area in which they desperately needed to improve upon.
Before joining the Stampede, I asked Alabi what he was up to in order to stay in basketball shape. Alabi said he was "training in Orlando (Florida), the morning I would train with track and field Olympians, and in the evening I played basketball." Alabi seemed to be in good physical shape Saturday night, and immediately immersed himself in the team. He often sat next to former Chicago Bulls forward and assistant coach for the Stampede, Scott Williams, on the bench. The two conversed often, and Alabi seemed to already install his jovial attitude on the Stampede bench, intermixing with teammates while he was out of the action.
Alabi is in a great position to once again land back in the NBA. As a late cut for the New Orleans Hornets this past training camp, his services if presented in a healthy fashion, could be of use for an NBA team looking to fill a void at the center position. The 24-year-old will look to showcase his skills while helping the Stampede get back to a respectable win/loss record. Don't be surprised if Alabi's name graces the NBA D-League's official top prospect list, or our very own top prospect list, anytime soon.