NEWARK — Former Seton Hall forward Herb Pope still harbors dreams of making it to the NBA.
“To be honest, I’m trying to get in a summer league really, try to get there and chase my dreams,” the 6-foot-8 Pope told SNY.tv Saturday when he watched his alma mater lose to Cincinnati, 65-59. “So that’s the route that I want to go.”
The father of a 5-year-old daughter named Hamari, Pope has had one of the most dramatic lives of any college player in recent memory.
He was shot four times in his hometown of Aliquippa, Pa., in 2007 while trying to leave a party — and was lucky to survive.
While at Seton Hall, Pope collapsed during a workout at Walsh Gym in April 2010. He underwent heart surgery to deal with a birth defect — an anomalous right coronary artery — that Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard said they “usually only find in an autopsy.”
Most recently, he was arrested before New Year’s for allegedly pulling a gun on a Pittsburgh-area bar owner and spent the night in jail.
Pope, who was reluctant to return to Aliquippa during his time at Seton Hall for safety reasons, told SNY.tv he does own a gun.
Pope averaged 15.1 points and 10.4 rebounds as a senior at Seton Hall, but was not selected in the 2012 NBA Draft. In July, he signed with Bnei Hasharon Herzliya of the Israel Basketball Super League.
“Israel was great,” Pope said. “I had a great experience. The team and myself, we decided to go in different directions, a buyout and go from there.”
Now he’s back in the U.S., and isn’t entirely pleased with what he sees from the Pirates, who are 13-9, 2-7 in the Big East.
“To me, I feel like it’s a pride thing,” he said. “A lot of those guys don’t have pride, Seton Hall pride. They want to win, they want to play well, but they don’t understand that you’re home. You gotta play like it’s your last game at home.
“I don’t see it. I’ve been watching the game.”
He added: “The light’s too bright for some of these people.”
ROBINSON PLAYING IN POLANDJeff Robinson, another former Seton Hall player recruited by former coach Bobby Gonzalez, is playing for AZS Koszalin in Poland and enjoying it.
“I like it so far,” the 6-6 Robinson told SNY.tv. “It’s a lot better talent than my first year, a lot better players. It’s very competitive.”
He added: “The fans and everybody makes me feel at home, so I like it a lot.”
The Trenton, N.J., native spent his first year out of school in Austria, but said he prefers Poland, where he said he’s currently averaging 16 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists.
“I’m building my resume right now,” he said. “You got to take it one year at a time and right now I’m just trying to prepare for better things.”
Robinson concurred with Pope that the current team lacks “fire.”
“They just gotta get that fire, I feel as though as they don’t have that fire that they had when I was here,” he said. “You gotta enjoy playing the game, too, at the same time as trying to win the game. And they don’t seem like they’re enjoying it. They seem tense and frustrated all the time because everything don’t go their way.”
He added: “You just gotta be patient and let these young dudes grow. They’re young, man. Not all of them are as old as Fu[quan] Edwin, so you just gotta give them time.”
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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.