The reformed rebel
A change of scenery could change everything for Pope
Posted: Tuesday September 25, 2007 5:43PM; Updated: Wednesday September 26, 2007 9:07AM
At the 2005 ABCD Camp, the two biggest junior stars were O.J. Mayo and Kevin Love, who were as close to sure things as are found on the recruiting trail.
Beyond that duo, the most intriguing player present from the Class of '07 may have been Herb Pope, a slippery, 6-foot-8 forward from Aliquippa, Pa., who had committed to Pittsburgh as a sophomore. But as one evaluator remarked at the time, Pope "was probably getting too good" for the Panthers. Not that Pitt wasn't a strong program then; it just seemed that Pope was blowing up on a national scale, and there were whispers that he was being pushed toward grander destinations.
Nearly two years later, at the Roundball Classic in Chicago, Mayo and Love showed they were still ahead of their peers. Playing opposite each other in their final prep All-Star game, the USC-bound Mayo scored 27 points for the East team while UCLA-bound Love scored 21 for the victorious West. Though the game program listed Pope's name on the West roster, and a plane ticket had been issued for him to fly in from Pittsburgh, there was no Herb Pope in the United Center.
He was in the hospital instead.
Three days prior, early on the morning Pope was supposed to travel to Chicago, he was shot four times -- twice in the abdomen, once in the thigh, once in the left forearm -- by 19-year-old Marcus Longmire outside a house party in Aliquippa, according to police. Police reports say Longmire's 21-year-old cousin, Tremayne Foster, instigated a fight by assaulting Pope after being denied a ride home from the party.
Pope fought back, and was getting the better of Foster, until Longmire intervened with a gun. Last week, Pope recounted the scene in vivid detail over the phone. "I turned 90 degrees to my right [during the fight on the ground], and I saw a gun pointed at me," he said. "That kind of stuff happens in the hood, and people don't shoot, they just try to scare someone. I thought, 'This dude is bluffing.' So I punched him. I wasn't going to let him try to hurt me. He started pulling the trigger, and when I went to hit him again, he shot two more times. Two [bullets] hit me. I covered my face with my left arm and ducked, and that blocked the last one."
Pope made a few fortunate moves. By blocking the third bullet -- which would have otherwise hit him in the face -- he avoided more serious damage. He was hit with a fourth bullet while attempting to flee, but found the energy to run 80 yards, descend a 16-foot embankment, and flag down a car that took him to the hospital. There he began healing. On the eighth day doctors had him walking the hallways, gingerly dribbling a basketball to regain motion.