Nevada star Cameron Oliver not a stranger to Solomon Young

Iowa State freshman Solomon Young attempts a layup during the Cyclones’ semifinal game against TCU at the Big 12 Championship in Kansas City, Missouri March 10, 2017. Young played for 30 minutes and contributed 9 points in the Cyclones 84-63 win over the Horned Frogs. 

Luke Manderfeld

MILWAUKEE — It took two years and more than 2,000 miles, but two Sacramento high school rivals will have the chance to play again.

When No. 5 Iowa State (23-10, 12-6 Big 12) takes on No. 12 Nevada (28-6, 14-4 Mountain West) on Thursday in the Bradley Center, Solomon Young and Cameron Oliver will have the Sacramento basketball community tuning in.

Young, Iowa State’s freshman forward, attended Sacramento High School, which is just a 20-minute drive away from Grant High School, where Oliver, Nevada’s star forward, played.

And there was no love lost between the two basketball programs. 

“I think it’s a funny turn of events, playing against him in high school and now playing him in the NCAA Tournament,” Young said prior to Iowa State’s practice Wednesday. “It’s a funny situation, but I think it’s cool, though.”

Both players starred during their high school careers, gaining All-Metro honors from the Sacramento Bee. While Oliver is a year older and getting NBA Draft attention, Young has been a force for the Cyclones this season. Iowa State is 8-1 since he entered the starting lineup against Oklahoma on Feb. 11.

Young said Sacramento High School got the best of Grant High School during his career. Both players sat out a season in high school with knee injuries, but in the two times Young faced Oliver, Young emerged victorious.

“We battled,” Oliver said Wednesday. “I have a lot of respect for him, man. He worked hard to where he’s at, so I definitely respect him and where he’s at right now. There’s probably going to be a whole party back where we’re from, so it’s going to be fun.”

The Cyclones can’t say the same about facing Oliver. 

Coming into the matchup as the No. 61 prospect in the upcoming NBA Draft on, Oliver is already the third on Nevada’s all-time block list as a sophomore, racking up 186 in 72 career games.

This season, he is averaging 2.6 blocks per game — 15th in the nation — along with 15.8 points and 8.7 rebounds per game.

Young may be the most familiar with Oliver, but it will be the Cyclones’ versatile forward Deonte Burton who gets the call to guard Nevada’s star.

Burton and Oliver have similar skill sets. Given their size, they are extremely agile with the ball in their hands. They aren’t afraid to knock down a jump shot when the time comes.

Burton will use his skill set to his advantage to slow down Oliver. 

“[I] just have to move my feet,” Burton said. “Not try to reach. Just move my feet and not get any dumb fouls. Really just play solid defense and contest shots.”

Nevada also boasts another skilled forward in Jordan Caroline, who comes into the tournament on a tear. Caroline, a sophomore, has averaged 14.8 points and 9.2 rebounds per game this season and has three double-doubles in his last four contests. 

While Oliver can use his quickness to blow by a defender, Caroline uses his toughness to out-position defenders down low. And that may be the difference Thursday night in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

“We got to be able to get help when you need it,” Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said. “You can’t overhelp because you got Caroline going to glass every time. He’s the toughness and glue to their team. Oliver is a tough matchup. He’s one of the couple major keys.”

Young, who has been tabbed with guarding Caroline, has faced some tough competition in the Big 12. Jonathan Motley for Baylor and Jarret Allen from Texas are just a few of the big-name forwards in the conference.

The Cyclones seem to be doing better on the glass, which will come in handy against a Nevada team that averages 38.9 rebounds per game — 11th among NCAA Tournament teams. During Iowa State’s run to the Big 12 Tournament title, the team finished dead even in rebounding margin over three games (102-102).

That number is even more impressive given the Cyclones didn’t out-rebound a Big 12 opponent until 13 games into the conference season. Young has been a big factor in that disparity over the two months since.

“I think it’s just that as a team, our guards are getting better on the boards,” Young said. “I’m just trying to be active, getting around the rim and getting my hands on balls. I think that’s been the big difference.”

He’ll try to be the difference once again in Iowa State’s first round matchup against Nevada.

Plus, he has a winning streak he has to continue — beating Oliver.

“Every time we played [Oliver’s] school, we always beat them,” Young said. “[I’m] looking to do it again.”