A Good Break

Malik Pope has been going a bit stir-crazy as his leg slowly mends, but he's had at least one visitor from the college ranks as he prepares for a July return.

Malik Pope isn't exactly a forgotten man in 2014 hoops recruiting, but with his broken leg taking just a bit more time than he had planned to fully heal, he told Cal Sports Digest that the whole recruiting game has calmed down significantly, which isn't exactly a bad thing.

"It's actually quieted down, a little bit," says Pope. "It's been good, actually. It lets me focus on school more."

Why would recruiting quiet down for a five-star prospect, the No. 4 small forward in the country and the No. 16 player in the nation? Because he hasn't played a competitive game of basketball in more than four months, as he waits for his fractured tibia to heal. And how is that particular activity going?

"It's going," Pope laughs. "I'm not playing yet. I'm practicing, actually. I should be back by July, hopefully."

Three weeks ago, during the spring evaluation period, Pope got a visit from California assistant Gregg Gottlieb, who came to see just how Pope was doing without nearly as much basketball in his life as he's used to.

"We caught up a little bit, chatted, joked and all that good stuff," says Pope.

Back in February, Pope was hoping for an AAU return to the court by the early part of May. Now that it's decidedly late in the month, he's still not yet ready to hit the court and start banging around.

"It took longer than I thought," Pope says. "It's almost like 90 percent closed right now, so I'm staring physical therapy and all of that, and hopefully, I'll be back by the beginning of July. I'm going to rehab all through June to be sure I'm 100-percent.

To say it's been frustrating is the mother of all understatements.

"Oh, trust me, it's hard," Pope says. "It's hard. I'm all anxious and all that stuff."

Pope has however been able to use his extra time to focus on school, preparing for his final exams, which start next week.

"I'm actually studying right now," says Pope.

When he doesn'thave his head in the books, though, Pope has been doing anything he can so that he doesn't go stir-crazy.

"I honestly don't miss any of the practices," says Pope, who – when healthy – will be playing for Team Superstar the rest of the summer. "I'll put up shots and do all that stuff on the side while they practice. I haven't missed one practice, weekend or anything."

Pope is far from just standing on one leg and idly shooting in a corner, but not that far.

"I can shoot; I just don't jump high, at all," says the 6-foot-8, 205-pounder. "When I get back, then I'm going to start shooting regularly. Right now, I shoot like people who don't jump when they shoot -- a little baby jump, a little bunny hop."

If Pope has his way, he'll be back in plenty of time to gear up for Las Vegas in late July -- the crescendo of the summer AAU schedule.

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