Four-star hoops prospect Malik Pope has never moved this slowly. He's not used to being held back. He's not used to waiting. But, since the California target broke his tibia in January, that's exactly what he's been forced to do.
Pope had originally hoped to get back on the court and playing AAU ball in May. Then, because his leg continued to heal all-too-slowly, that date was pushed back to July. Now, the sun is starting to set on the summer, and Pope has yet to play a single minute.
"It's pretty rough," says Pope, "but I'm getting through it. It's tiring. It wasn't supposed to take this long. The doctor even said it wasn't supposed to take this long. It's slowly healing, I guess.
"It's going to be a long finish though the summer. I don't know when I'll be back. It's a process."
The 6-foot-9, 210-pound forward has seen his summer filled with rehab, workouts and summer school, rather than traveling to all corners of the country for showcase tournaments. His schedule has been so busy that he hasn't been able to get out and watch his Team Superstar teammates.
For Pope, the toughest part of his extended recuperation has been spending time away from basketball. He works out in the gym and puts up shots, going one-on-one with his trainer uncle regularly, but it's not the same.
"I can do a lot," says Pope. "I can jump and all that, but I'm slowly progressing so I can jump off of this leg."
He can run, he can move, he can change direction, but he's not quite ready to do all of those in a game, or do those at a level he's used to. It's a matter of getting stronger, Pope says.
"It's all throughout the week, pretty much," says Pope of his rehab. "Mondays, I'm at the gym with my trainer, working out with a lot of leg stuff, and then Tuesdays, I'm with my uncle, who's also a trainer. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, we do lower body. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I'm with my trainer. It's mainly [lifting] stuff, and with my uncle, we sometimes go to the gym after a workout, one-on-one, working on post moves and all of that, with cones and stuff."
Pope – who recently named his top nine of Cal, Arizona, Gonzaga, Kansas, Oregon, San Diego State, UCLA, USC and Washington – says that coaches are keeping in regular contact with him during the summer.
"Most of them will send texts and then call after a while, every other week, pretty much," says Pope.
Since he's spending most of his time near his home these days, Pope has set himself to planning an unofficial visit to nearby Berkeley.
"I'll probably go soon," says Pope. "Next month, most likely."
Cal made his top nine thanks to head coach Mike Montgomery's style of play, which Pope has been studying.
"Cal is close to home, and they fit," says Pope. "I've seen them play on TV, and they fit pretty much exactly my style of play. Coach [Gregg] Gottlieb and the head coach give me a call every now and then. We stay in touch."
As it stands, the Bears are the only program that Pope plans to visit in the near future, but in August, he'll start "giving it some thought," as to what other schools he wants to check out.
Pope says that he "might take a visit somewhere else," and then cut his list down to a final five, before making his decision in November. Pope currently holds a 2.9 GPA after taking World History in summer school ("I got a C+. I fell a little short of the grade I was looking for: A high-B," Pope says), and is determined to get a 3.2 or a 3.3 GPA this coming semester.
Taking it Slowly
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