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San Diego State Basketball: Malik Pope may be the best SDSU athlete since Kawhi Leonard

The 6-foot-10 freshman has a scary blend of size and guard capabilities that will keep the University of Kansas up at night for not being able to sign him.

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sport

It's now time to preview arguably the best San Diego State athlete to step foot onto the Mesa since NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, and that is freshman forward Malik Pope.

Coming in at 6-foot-10 (over 7 feet if you include his hair) and 205 pounds out of Elk Grove, California, Pope possesses a scary blend of height and guard capabilities that only comes around so often.

Pope stands alone at the top as the most highly touted recruit of SDSU's program-best freshman class. He received a five-star rating and was No. 17 in the Rivals150 rankings. He was also No. 55 on the ESPN 100 rankings, and they gave him four stars.

All these stellar rankings came despite the fact that Pope has not played since his junior year of high school due to two broken legs. In that junior year, Pope averaged 16.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game.

Kudos to Steve Fisher, Brian Dutcher and the rest of the SDSU coaching staff for not giving up on one of the most athletically gifted players in the country. They were able to pluck Pope over Kansas, Gonzaga and a plethora of Pac-12 schools.

What makes Pope so talented is similar to what makes his teammate Winston Shepard so valuable, and that is being able to play the guard position with above-average height and create matchup problems.

However, Shepard is not a good comparison to Pope because, unlike Shepard who had a 18 percent 3-point percentage last season, Pope will be a factor in the 3-point game and is a threat to shoot from anywhere on the floor. He shot 60 percent from the floor his junior season and shot 48 percent from 3-point range.

Now the question is, where will Pope play, and how much will he play?

There's no doubt that Fisher cannot wait to unleash his freak-athlete freshman, but it doesn't look like Pope will be in the starting five, at least to begin the season.

J.J. O' Brien, Dwayne Polee II, Matt Shrigley and Dakari Allen will all be competing with Pope for playing time at the three and four spot, but it would not be a surprise if Pope starts to earn himself substantial minutes throughout the season as he develops.

Look for Pope to spend a majority of his time playing the three-guard out on the wing, while also spending some time at the two-guard and four positions depending on the rotation.

It's tough to say how many minutes Pope will accumulate this season. The Aztecs have a lot of talented, experienced player competing for a few spots.

What is for certain, though, is that SDSU has one of the best athletes in the country on their hands, and they can look forward to the buzz he will bring to Viejas Arena this year -- and possibly three more after that.

Here are some videos of Pope in high school and AAU ball.