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November 9, 2012

California five-star ready to take next step


Note: Pope highlighst begin at about the 1:20 mark of the video

Not many saw him coming, but last spring and summer Malik Pope burst onto the scene as a big-time player.

Pretty much unknown back in April, the 6-foot-8 junior small forward at Elk Grove (Calif.) Laguna Creek has made a big name for himself since. Now, the five-star prospect who currently ranks No. 10 in the class of 2014 is looking to take his game to the next level and prove he's no fluke.

According to his summer coach LeRohn Dodson of Team Superstar, Pope is starting to figure things out.

"He's never really taken it serious before because he was just a local guy playing with his church team or whatever," Dodson told Rivals.com. "He's figured out that he can be pretty good and now he's in the gym a lot more and is working at things.

"I think he's improving and getting better. But he's still just scratching the surface of how good he can be and he doesn't even have a clue of how good he can be."

Unassuming and quiet off the floor, Pope is working to be more consistent with his game because he can be hot and cold. But, it's what he does when hot that is so important.

He's a super sized wing with high level athleticism who can handle, shoot with range and attack the glass. Pope runs the floor and because of his size can also be utilized as a matchup problem four man. On top of that, he's still growing and is starting to understand that he's going to get everybody's best shot.

"I think he's grown to about 6-foot-9 now," said Dodson. "His mom keeps telling me that doctors think he's going to hit 6-foot-10 and that could be scary. He's put on about 8-10 pounds and he's maturing and getting more serious.

"Now he has a target on his back and knows that people are coming at him because of his ranking. When he gets mad and people get under his skin he really turns it up."

Not surprisingly, college programs have taken notice. UNLV, Washington, UCLA and Gonzaga have established their presence early by making multiple trips in to see Pope. Others involved early include Kansas, California, Louisville, Georgetown, Texas, USC, Colorado, Baylor and many more.

For now, though, Pope is focused on taking that next step with his game. But, he is being encouraged to start taking a closer look at those programs recruiting him so he can begin to sort out what is important to him.

"We've told him he needs to watch a lot of games this year," said Dodson. "He needs to be with somebody that gets up and down and lets him do his thing out there. He needs to watch and see what type of style and coaching he likes."



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