Just when things were starting to go really well, Malik Pope got hit with the injury bug.
A 6-foot-8 small forward at Elk Grove (Calif.) Laguna Creek who currently ranks No. 9 nationally in the 2014 Rivals150, Pope had shrugged off a slow start and was beginning to put up huge numbers on a consistent basis.
Then, two weeks ago he came down wrong and fractured his fibula and ended his junior season.
"Before the injury we were on a roll and then boom at the end of the game I got the injury," Pope told Rivals.com. "I started slow and we were losing some and weren't going to make the playoffs. Then again I had to pick it up because we weren't doing to too good so I had pick up and we started winning."
Despite his injury, Pope's teammates have made it into the state playoffs for which he is very excited.
Those who watched Pope prior to injury were getting pretty excited as well. A legitimate perimeter player with great length and above average athleticism to go along with his 6-foot-8 size, Pope is dynamic talent. He can shoot with range, handles well and is very fluid.
"I think my strengths are shooting dribbling and posting up a little bit," said Pope. "That's probably my top three. I need to work on defense mainly and blocking shots."
Not surprisingly, Pope has emerged as one of the West Coast's most heavily recruited players. Stanford, UCLA, USC, California, Gonzaga, Washington, UNLV, Boise State, Oregon (there the night he was injured) and Arizona have all been out this season to watch him. According to Pope, his recruitment has even picked up since he got hurt.
"They've been recruiting me harder," said Pope. "They've been calling my mom and telling her that they are still around and it doesn't matter that I'm injured and that they want to see me recover."
While Pope is frustrated about sitting out, the bright side is that his leg didn't require surgery. He's hoping to be back by mid to late April and despite his status as a top ten prospect, he's still a bit of an unknown and wants to show the nation what he is capable of when he hits the floor with Team Superstar.
"I know that this summer I'm going work some magic," said Pope. "I'm going to show I have an all around game. Every single game I'm going to board, score and everything."
As for the recruiting front, Pope is wide open in the process and open to exploring all of his options.
"I'm still wide open, we're going to talk about that over the summer," said Pope of his recruitment. "I might take a couple of visits at the end of summer or beginning of senior year.
"I'm not really worried about staying close to home."