Probable first rounder Malik Pope forgoes 2015 NBA draft, staying at San Diego State

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Malik Pope didn’t play much as a freshman, averaging just 14.8 minutes per game for San Diego State after breaking his leg both his junior and senior years of high school.

But when he got on the court, the 6-foot-10 forward flashed an intriguing all-around game. He’s long, athletic and shoots well.

There are questions about sample size, but Pope probably would have gone in the first round of the 2015 NBA draft – if he entered it.

San Diego State release:

San Diego State men’s basketball head coach Steve Fisher announced today that forward Malik Pope has decided to return to the program for his sophomore campaign in 2015-16.

“After a long discussion with Malik and his family, and after receiving feedback from the NBA office, Malik has decided to return to San Diego State for his sophomore season.” Fisher said. “He is very excited about improving his game and being part of a great team next season.”

If Pope stays healthy, builds strength in his leg and continues to produce at the level he showed last season, he’ll burst into the top tier of the 2016 draft.

For NBA teams more interested in the 2015 draft than the 2016 edition, this is bad news. But take a step back and realize Pope is probably the most highly touted prospect to return to school, and it doesn’t seem so bad. By and large, probable first rounders are turning pro. Pope is the exception.