With the success on the court so far this season, it should be no surprise that the Gonzaga coaching staff is raising the bar on the recruiting trail. Despite a limited number of scholarship offers being made so far, the recruits that have received offers are highly impressive.
Perhaps no recruit has caught the attention of Gonzaga attention more than Malik Pope. The 2014 guard/wing is a consensus top-25 recruit due to his skill set and size. Pope really burst on to the recruiting scene this summer according to LeRohn Dodson, the director of Team Superstar.
"First off, I think he was just kind of blown away by all the attention," Dodson said of the 5-star recruit. "You're talking about a kid in March that was being recruited by Pepperdine and UC Davis. Then, after the first weekend of the season, he had about eight new offers."
While the scholarship offers and accolades are great, Dodson emphasizes that Pope is doing an excellent job of staying grounded through the process.
"We are just trying to keep him grounded," emphasized the Team Superstar director. "He is a grounded kid and I don't think any of that got to him. As he progressed, he started to realize he could be at that level. He did well against a lot of the bigger name kids and his confidence grew."
It's the combination of potential and confidence that really saw the Laguna Creek junior emerge with Team Superstar during AAU play.
"His strength is his skill set," Dodson said. "I believe, and I've been doing AAU for 16 years and was part of the EBO program that had about 20 pros, that his skill set for his size and age is off the charts. The way he handles, passes and shoots for a kid that just turned 16 and is close to 6'9 is special."
Although that potential has earned Malik numerous accolades, Dodson insists that there is still plenty of room for improvement.
"The big thing we always talk about with him is being more consistent. He is such a laid back kid and he doesn't always assert himself. I tell him that he is too good of a player not to impact the game in multiple ways."
"The second thing he needs is to get physically stronger. He can get his shot off but he is going to need to get stronger at the next level. He doesn't like lifting weights, but he is just starting to do that stuff. I don't know how much bigger he can get with his frame, but he can still get strong."
With the sudden burst on the recruiting scene, Pope and Dodson are still working through his list of impressive offers as he tries to get a feel for recruiting.
"Kansas, UNLV, Arizona, UCLA, Georgetown, Louisville, Baylor, Gonzaga and the whole Pac-12 really," Dodson said of the schools that have offered. "Probably everyone but Kentucky and Duke has pretty much offered at this point. When the schools started looking at him, he didn't really know the difference between them. We told him you need to watch games and see playing styles and coaching. I think he is just now becoming a basketball junkie and is starting to love it. He is watching on a nightly basis."
Donny Daniels has taken the lead on recruiting the junior guard and has made quite an impact so far.
"I think that Gonzaga has done a great job and Coach Daniels has done an outstanding job," explained the Team Superstar director. "They are probably one of the top schools recruiting Malik. Gonzaga and UNLV have been by campus to see him the most, and those two and Washington stay in contact and call at the right times. Coach Daniels has done a great job recruiting him."
One of the next steps that Malik will take in his recruitment is deciding when and where to take visits.
"I think he will wait until his senior year," Dodson said when talking about official visits. "We have talked about it between me and his mom. She wants him to focus on school and basketball and doesn't want him to take visits to miss school. We will kind of wait it out and maybe take a visit or two before AAU if it is on a weekend. If he took a visit, Gonzaga would probably be one of the schools he would visit and is probably one of those five top schools."