Yesterday San Diego State announced that sophomore forward Malik Pope was declaring for the NBA Draft. Pope will not hire an agent, giving him the option to return to school by May 25th.
This move was in no way surprising. Since the inception of new NCAA rules that allow prospects to enter the draft and retain eligibility, if they do not hire an agent, it was seen as a logical step for Pope to take advantage of this opportunity.
"With the rule change, it is a good opportunity for Malik to get workouts and evaluations from NBA personnel. Together we will monitor his progress," Coach Steve Fisher announced.
Pope is clearly the best NBA prospect on the Aztecs roster and his physical attributes raise intrigue. Going into the season Pope was pegged as a late first round pick by Draft Express.
A good season would have seen his stock go up, however he started the year playing horribly and he disappeared off the NBA radar.
A good end of the season is why Pope is even in the periphery of the NBA. In his last 13 games Pope averaged 11.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. He shot 47.5% from the field and an even 50% from three-point range during that stretch.
On the season Pope averaged 7.3 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. These numbers are much lower than his end of the year performance and are a big reason why he likely won’t find much interest for him in this year’s draft. However, the opportunity is there and Pope should take full advantage.
Coach Fisher always has said that if a player is a lottery pick he should go, if he’s a first rounder he needs to think about it, and if he’s a second rounder he should come back. I expect the message to be the same.
Should Pope return for his junior season the Aztecs would start the year as a fringe Top 25 team. If he does go to the NBA then the Aztecs will have many players that will be ready for the opportunity to fill the void. Either way, Pope is being prudent and you cannot blame a kid for exploring all his options.