WSU HOOPS: Intriguing prospect has a leader

EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR a reason. That's the mindset of a JUCO hoops standout. After committing to another Pac-12 school, the 6-5 combo guard was ruled ineligible by the NCAA last month and will play his basketball on the junior college stage this season. With his sights set on the class of 2014, he holds three Pac-12 offers -- but one school, he says, stands at the top.

And that's Washington State.

"It's definitely very high," Austin Pope said of his interest level in the Cougs. "They're getting guys out there and I like how they run up and down the floor. It's a great atmosphere and the determining factor would me getting out there for a visit. Out of the three schools that have offered me, though, right now, I'd say Washington State is my favorite."

A current member on the Cougar roster has played a big role as to why WSU is on top.

"I've known Royce Woolridge for a couple years now," Pope said. "During my sophomore year of high school, I went to an elite camp at Kansas University and I met him there. Since then, I've talked to him on Facebook and we talked a little bit about WSU. He's told me it's a great place to be and he likes it a lot. If I were to go there, it'd be like having a friend up there already."

POPE LOOKED ALL set to move to Boulder to begin his collegiate career until recently, when some of his credits were deemed untransferable by the NCAA last month. Having chosen the Buffs over offers from USC, Oregon State, UC-Irvine and several others, Pope said he was down in the dumps about the setback.

But he's now at Saddleback Junior College, working to gain his AA degree in 1 1/2 years and become eligible by next fall.

Pope's Colorado offer remains on the table and the Oregon State staff also re-offered him a scholarship.

The Cougars jumped on board, offering him on April 29.

"I'm blessed to receive any offer, but to receive one from a prestigious program like Washington State is great," Pope said. "Coach Curtis Allen called me and told me that he had been checking out some AAU tournaments around the area and knew about my game and style of play. They wanted to offer me for this season (2013) but they got a commitment from Ike Iroegbu and really didn't have any space for me.

"Coach Allen said they felt like I'm the best available guy for the class of 2014. He and the coaches had a discussion and wanted to offer me a scholarship."

POPE WAS ORIGINALLY at Burbank High and a member of the 2012 class before transferring to fifth-year program La Jolla Prep in 2013.

This past season at La Jolla, Pope averaged 17 points, six assists and four rebounds. He manned the point guard spot, but said he could suit up at several different spots for the Cougs.

"Most schools are recruiting me as a one, but I could play any of the guard positions," Pope said. "I don't have a label on me really. I just go out there and I can make plays wherever. Coach Allen said I could be a good fit for them because I'm so versatile. We're talking about setting up a trip out there where I could go check out the school and campus. I'm hoping to do that soon."

IN ADDITION TO Wazzu, OSU and Colorado, Pope said he is hearing regularly from USC, UCLA, Marquette, Cal, UNLV and several other programs. The California product added that he's hoping to make his decision before the start of his JC season and plans to sign with the college of his choice in November.

"I'm going to take a hard look at a school's playing style, but most importantly for me, I need a family environment, Pope said. "I'm very family oriented and I want to make sure the staff and the players are on the same page. I want to be a part of a great bond because with that, we'll be able to go as far as we want to go."

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