As we followed the SDSU’s men’s basketball team through a redeeming second half of the regular season, then into the NIT after an apparent snub from the NCAA to the big show, and into the final four at Madison Square Garden, there was a push to make the final games extra special for seniors like Winston Shepard and Skylar Spencer.
Since that fateful game in New York City we haven’t heard much from the upperclassmen, but Tuesday afternoon, sophomore forward Malik Pope declared for the 2016 NBA Draft. Pope was expected to take advantage of the new NCAA rule which allows underclassman to participate in the draft process and hold on to collegiate eligibility so long as they don’t hire an agent.
In a statement released by SDSU, Head Coach Steve Fisher says he will be keeping an eye on the rising junior saying, “With the rule change, it is a great opportunity for Malik to get workouts and evaluations from NBA personnel. Together, we will monitor his progress.”
Pope had some standout moments this season but was it enough to get him a spot in the pros? Ahead of the Final Four, Pope led the team in rebounding for the seventh time in the season and 10th time in his career. In the final 13 games of the season Pope posted averages of 11.7 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.2 assists. It wasn’t until the latter half of the 2015-2016 when Pope started seeing regular rotation. Pope has tremendous promise but it may be too soon for him jump into the draft. There is plenty of growth potential for him at SDSU and an opportunity to have a solid junior year; but kudos to him for exploring his options.
This year’s combine is one month away in Chicago, Illinois. Pope has until 10 days after the conclusion of the NBA Draft Combine to decide if he will see it through or withdraw his name. The NBA Draft is set for June 23 in New York City.