Dixon's prized 'Pope' dominating summer camp

Some people questioned Jamie Dixon and his staff when he formally offered a scholarship to Herb Pope from Aliquippa (Pa.). Considered unmotivated at times and underachieving, Pope has used a dominating summer camp to prove his naysayers wrong and perhaps those that doubt the recruiting abilities of Dixon, as well.

Herb Pope, a 6-8 1/2, 220-pound junior power forward at Aliquippa High (Pa.), made a quick verbal commitment to the Pittsburgh Panthers in early March of his sophomore season.

The commitment was particularly sweet for Dixon and his staff because it put to death the stigma that Dixon not only couldn't pull in the big fish nationally, but locally as well.

That was, for at least the time being.

Yes, the loudest of voices will still point to the dismal 2006 campaign Dixon and his staff have had; allowing in-state products Gerald Henderson, Wayne Ellington and Reggie Redding to continue their careers elsewhere, but for the meantime the Panther nation can bask in knowing at least 2007 has gotten off to a better start.

Pope, according to Scout.com analyst Jeff Goodman, is a kid that could possibly help move the Panthers into the future. A dominating AAU performance in Orlando yesterday, was all the validation one observer needed.

"Forget the numbers," Goodman wrote Thursday afternoon after a dominating performance by Pope officially kicked off the festivities in Orlando. "The manner in which he accumulated his points stood out. At 6-foot-8+, he handled the ball, made a few mid-range shots and was a beast inside. Observers loved him at ABCD and he was quite the prospect here. Scout.com had him pre-summer No. 15 and he's on the rise."

According to Goodman, the big fella had developed a stigma that he was a bit lazy, but has since dispelled those notions with his encouraged play.

"Pope fared extremely well at the ABCD Camp in early July," Goodman stated, "dispelling the notion that his work ethic was a factor by competing on every play - and also becoming a vocal leader on his team."

Pope, who played his freshman year at Montrose Christian (Md.), averaged 17.8 points and 11 boards this past season at Aliquippa.

Said national recruiting analyst, Dave Telep on Pope: "The big fella can flat out play. He's mobile inside, can score with his back to the basket and makes face-ups."

In his team's high school playoff run this past year, Pope averaged close to 21 points a game, helping to solidify himself as one of the best prospects in the loaded state of Pennsylvania.

A state that Dixon and his staff have desperately been seeking a front runner to step up and set the example for the generations to come about Pittsburgh's basketball program.

Can a 'Pope' lead them? Dixon thinks so. The big question in 2007 ... will Antonio Jardine, Jeff Jones and Kyle Griffin follow and finally take a look at the in-state power?

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