Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
NEWARK, N.J. — Herb Pope has had Sunday’s date circled on his calendar since the Big East scheduled was released.
That’s when Pittsburgh comes to the Prudential Center to face Pope and Seton Hall (2 p.m.).
Pope, a native of Aliquippa, Pa., who initially committed to Pittsburgh out of high school, can’t wait.
“This is the only game that I think I circled…because I’m big into my school spirit and all that,” Pope said after scoring 10 points and grabbing 7 boards in Thursday’s win over Louisville.
This is a huge game for the Pirates (11-6, 2-4 Big East), who must continue to take care of business at home if they are to have any shot at the NCAA Tournament.
No. 9 Pitt (15-3, 5-1) is coming off a tough home loss to Georgetown on Wednesday.
“The Pitt game is going to be unbelievable for me, first time I get to play Pitt,” Pope said. “That’s part of the reason why I transferred back, to have the opportunity to go home and this is the year we play them twice.” Seton Hall also visits Pitt Feb. 6.
Pope initially committed to Pittsburgh and then changed his mind and opted for New Mexico State because he said he felt more comfortable with then-head coach Reggie Theus‘ style of play.
“New Mexico State played the up and down tempo,” he said. “With him being a guy from Louisville, Reggie Theus, it was basically like a Louisville offense.”
After opting to leave New Mexico State, Pope said he considered Pitt the second time around, but chose Seton Hall because he didn’t want to be too close to home. He was shot four times his senior year at a party and hasn’t been back there in six months.
“The second time around I almost did go to Pitt,” he said. “It was an option for me.”
Pope said the style of play at Seton Hall also suited him better, even if head coach Bobby Gonzalez’s personality is on the opposite end of the spectrum from Pitt coach Jamie Dixon.
“He’s calm,” Pope said of Dixon. “He wants to coach you and pull you to the side and talk to you as opposed to the other coach. As soon as it happens that’s when you hear it [from Gonzalez].
“The other coach [Dixon], he’ll wait for you to pull you to the side to talk to you.”
Pope used to be friendly with former Pitt big man DeJuan Blair (now with the San Antonio Spurs), but doesn’t know anyone on the current team.
Another Aliquippa native, Darrelle Revis, will be busy Sunday also. The Jets cornerback will be playing against the Colts in the AFC Championship game at 3. Unfortunately, the games are at basically the same time, so the crowd in Newark may be sparse.
“I’m going to hear things as as soon as the game is over,” Pope said. “I just want him to win it. But I’m more concerned with the Pirates trying to beat the Pittsburgh Panthers.”
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.