As the high school season ends across the country, recruiting starts to take on steam with some of the top prospects in the nation. However, the sophomores aren't the usual decision-makers this time of year. Herb Pope made a decision though. The 6-foot-8, 233-pound power forward from Aliquippa (Pa.) High School will play his college ball at a Big East power.
Pope, the No. 33 ranked player in the class of 2007, made a verbal commitment to the Pitt Panthers. He is one of the few players in the current sophomore class to verbally pledge to a school. Jamie Dixon and his staff landed a good one, says Aliquippa head coach Marvin Emerson.
"He's a very mobile and agile big man that can step out and hit the three," Emerson said. "He's only 16-years-old so he still has a lot to learn. And that is what we are here to do. With Herb, he's got the size and now it's just a matter of helping his talent get to that level, too."
Pope averaged 17 points a game this season for the Quips. He played at Montrose Christian as a freshman before moving back to Pennsylvania, his home state. Over the course of his sophomore year, Pope improved as an interior scorer but also as perimeter shooter. The youngster has good size and loves to run the floor.
Landing Pope is a huge in-state get for Pitt. Many in the Northeast are touting the class of 2007 in Western Pennsylvania as one of the best groups in recent memory. Pope's Aliquippa home town is 25 miles northeast up the Ohio River from Pittsburgh. And that was one of the main reasons why he chose the Panthers.
"It's important to him to have that stability in his life," Emerson said. "It's only 30 minutes from home so his family can come and watch him play and then if the stress of college gets to him, he can come back home without any problems. Again, it's that stability."
Emerson said Pitt was far and away the team to beat in the race for Pope's services.
"It's been one of his goals since the ninth grade to play hard in order to go to Pitt," the coach said. "Just having it there was something to work for. As a student-athlete, he wanted something to play for. That is important for him. I don't think he really even considered anyone else. He's always been gung-ho for Pitt."
Others to watch this spring and summer from Western Pennsylvania include DeJuan Blair, a 6-foot-7 forward from Schenley in Pittsburgh. Jawan Alston, a 6-foot-8 forward from Albert Galleton in Uniontown, D.J. Kennedy, 6-foot-6 forward also from Schenley, Steve Swech, a 6-foot-8 forward from Elizabeth-Forward High School and Lance Lay, a 6-foot-3 guard from Aliquippa.