After Gonzaga landed 2014 guard Silas Melson this week, the Bulldog faithful is wondering who will join him in what most think will be a loaded 2014 class for the Zags. Assuming that there are no arrivals and departures, there are 4 open scholarships still left in the 2014 class. There are several players that have been targeted by Mark Few and his staff, and one of them is five-star small forward Malik Pope. Landing Pope would be enormous for the Bulldogs, and would easily put Gonzaga in the top 25 recruiting classes in the country.
Who is Malik Pope?
Malik Pope is a 6’8″, 210 small forward out of Burbank, California. According to Rivals, Pope is a five-star prospects who holds offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Baylor, California, Colorado, Fresno State, Georgetown, Kansas, Louisville, Miami (FL), Oregon State, San Diego State, Texas, UCLA, UNLV, USC, Utah, Washington, Washington State, and of course the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Back in February, Pope broke his tibia when he handed awkwardly during lay-up lines. Unfortunately for Pope, he has not been able to play AAU ball during the summer, and consequently his recruitment has slowed down a bit. However, a caravan of schools are still lining up to pursue Pope’s services, because of his enormous potential.
Pope is a point guard in a forwards body. The 6’8″ small forward is an extremely good ball handler, and uses this feature of his game to create a lot of his offense. He possesses a lightning quick first step, that combines very well will his explosiveness. Driving to the basket is one of Pope’s strong suits, and use’s his aforementioned explosiveness to blow past defenders. He uses his long and lanky frame to his advantage while rebounding, and does a sufficient job of rebounding in his area. He has a nice jump shot, and has some serious range. Pope is lethal in the open court, with his potent handle and his tremendous agility.
From reports, Pope needs to clean up his fundamentals in order to take his game to the next level. He has a good jump shot, but at times he struggles with consistency in that aspect. He is known to play out of control sometimes, and plays way too fast. Pope will need to find a way to slow down his game tempo while still maintaining the same explosiveness.
As alluded to before, Pope’s recruitment has slowed down a little ever since he broke his leg. However, he is still garnering interest from some of the elite schools on the west coast. UCLA, Cal, USC, and Arizona have all reportedly been recruiting Pope very hard recently. Sean Ceglinsky from Bruins247 anticipates that Pope will be a Cal Bear, per his Crystal Ball prediction. Pope hasn’t really announced any lists of schools or favorites at this time, and it is rumored that Pope will not decide until spring of next year.
Truthfully, it is hard to say. Pope is one of the best players on not only the west coast, but in the country. It would be very hard for Mark Few and his staff to snag this guy from the likes of Kansas and UCLA. However, like Josh Perkins, Gonzaga has been recruiting Pope for a very long time and have been a mainstay in his recruitment.
Another thing that might help Gonzaga in Pope’s recruitment is potential playing time. In Gonzaga’s system, Pope could easily play the 4 or the 3. In the 2014-2015 season, the only players that would be there at those two positions would be Angel Nunez, Luke Meikle, and Kyle Draginis. No offense to Meikle or Draginis, but Pope is significantly more talented than each of them. If Pope took his talents to the Inland northwest, then I believe Pope would start for the Bulldogs from day one. Not a lot of programs in the country can say this. I doubt Mark Few is using this as a selling point, but it is something to take in account.
Overall, Gonzaga has a decent chance at getting Pope at this time. I don’t think they are the front-runner by any means, but Pope is a player that has been on the Zags radar for a while now and have recruited him very, very hard.