Malik Pope Continued Comeback Season At U19 Training Camp
When Malik Pope (San Diego State University/Sacramento, Calf.) took the court at the 2015 USA Basketball Men’s U19 training camp on June 13 in Colorado Springs, Colorado, he not only was appreciative of the opportunity, he was grateful to even be on a basketball court.
It was not too long ago that Pope was forced to miss his junior and senior years of high school basketball in 2012-13 and 2013-14 due to injuries.
“It made me feel amazing to reminisce on everything that I have been through,” Pope explained. “I missed the opportunity in high school to play USA Basketball, so I feel rejuvenated.
“I figured this would be the perfect place for me to develop my game to another level, playing against people that are pros in their country,” Pope said why he chose to attend training camp. “Playing with these guys who are top players in the country from around the world. I figured if I tried out and made this team it would help me in the long run.”
Leg injuries in February and September of 2013 caused Pope to be sidelined for two seasons of prep school, and it was not until December 2014 that he was cleared for full practice as a freshman at San Diego State University.
“There really is a story to tell about that,” Pope explained. “Both of those injuries were devastating. The first one was so unexpected. It was random. I still don’t understand how that happened. I jumped off one leg to dunk, and then it just gave out. The second was kind of on (me), where I wasn’t completely healed because I let it heal naturally. But it gave out on me. I had some more injuries that added to that. Just those things alone humbled me.”As a freshman, he averaged 5.1 points and 2.7 rebounds in 14.8 minutes per game while becoming the fourth freshman in NCAA Division I to record at least 22 points, seven rebounds and two assists while shooting 75 percent or better in a single game.
“It has been great,” Pope said of college. “I started off slow. I tried to fight through to get comfortable with my position, which was coming from an injury, missing the first three games – not having played basketball in two years. Even with that, I have been able to develop my game a little more.”
In the final 18 games of 2014-15, Pope averaged 7.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in 18.7 minutes a game and shot 52.2 percent from the field, 47.2 percent from the 3-point.
At training camp for the 2015 USA Basketball Men’s U19 World Championship Team, amongst nine other attendees who have completed their first collegiate season, Pope said he focused on pushing himself to further develop his game.
“While I am here, I am trying to work on being able to play through adversity. I am trying to get out of my comfort zone.”
Though focused on his development, Pope said he has had a great experience.
“It has been crazy. All in all, I am just enjoying the experience, rather I make it our not I am going to enjoy this experience. There are only 21 players that have this opportunity to do this.”