San Diego State Aztecs forward Malik Pope will get a chance to play on the USA Basketball under-19 squad which competes at the FIBA Under-19 World Championship this summer in Greece.
Pope is one of 24 players invited to join the camp at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The initial 24-member roster will be trimmed to a solid 12-member team before they can defend their 2013 U19 World Championship gold starting June 27.
Syracuse Orange head coach Jim Boeheim heads the USA Basketball Junior National Team Committee and oversees the selection of all players and coaches. Boeheim never got to see Pope in-person, but Arizona Wildcats head coach and current U19 head coach Sean Miller caught a glimpse of Pope in action during last year's Maui Invitational. Though Pope only appeared for two minutes, he knocked down a three-pointer while on the floor.
It is Pope's strong performance as a sixth-man in 2014-15 which warranted a look from the staff at USA Basketball. The Sacramento forward played in 31 games averaging 45.5 percent on field goals and 40.8 percent from beyond the arc. In his favor to make the roster is that Pope is one of ten invitees with seasoned college experience.
Rumors circulated around Pope going pro this summer as many experts projected Pope to be a first-round pick. Pope eventually declined and chose to stay on campus with Steve Fisher. Playing for USA Basketball will only increase his stock and his national profile while at San Diego State. Pope-- not a leader of any stats category in the Mountain West-- will be household name in the upcoming hoops season. But first, his production from the U19 camp will be something to look at closely as the rosters will be announced on June 15.