Pope? Never heard of him

Seton Hall's Herb Pope, shown here playing against West Virginia Friday in Newark, N.J., is becoming a household name, though not in Andre Drummond's house. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Many would be surprised to learn that a lot of college basketball players aren’t nearly the basketball junkies that their fans are. They don’t pore over stats or watch endless games of future opponents when not required to.

Also, it should be noted, that freshmen on a team don’t have the familiarity their elder teammates do with key players around the league.

In addition, UConn often does a great deal of film work and opponent-specific preparation in the evening hours the day before a game.

All of that being said, it was a little surprising that UConn center Andre Drummond didn’t really know much about the Huskies’ opponent Tuesday night when asked by reporters Monday morning.

Drummond, the 6-foot-11 freshman center, will match up with Seton Hall’s Herb Pope. Pope, a senior, is fourth in the Big East in scoring (18.6 ppg) and second in rebounding (10.9 rpg). He’s not to familiar with his opponent, however.

“I don’t know who that is,” Drummond said, before quickly adding: “I’m not trying to be disrespectful.”

UConn will be at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., Tuesday night to take on Seton Hall. It’s an SNY broadcast at 7 p.m., FYI.

Drummond is, however, focused on his squad.

“I really don’t see any other team besides my own. I’m worried about UConn, not any other team we’re playing,” Drummond explained.

Now, a lot of teams simply use numbers exclusively in practice and even scouting reports when talking about opponents, so Drummond may merely be on the lookout for No. 15 Tuesday. Still, it’s likely he’ll know Pope’s name soon after this minor faux pas.

UConn associate head coach George Blaney, who fill in for Jim Calhoun for a third time Tuesday, obviously knows plenty about Pope.

“Right now he’s an all-Big East first teamer, the way he’s been playing,” Blaney said. “I’m particularly impressed with the defense he’s been playing. He’s hedging out great on the pick-and-roll, and he’s stealing the ball even on the pick-and-roll. He’s always been a good rebounder. He’s always been a great rebounder. Obviously he’s got scoring talents.”

Roscoe Smith (left wrist) practiced fully Monday and should play again Tuesday.

“Yeah, Roscoe’s pretty good. It’s sore and he’s got it taped pretty good,” Blaney said. “But he’s practiced really well.”

Shabazz Napier (left foot) also practiced Monday though he did undergo quite a bit of treatment on his foot after the workout.

“It’s better. It nags here and there,” Napier said.

Napier will, of course, play against the Pirates. He said the foot hurt a bit before Saturday’s win over St. John’s.

“In the beginning during layup lines but when that adrenaline kicks in, it’s a whole different feeling,” Napier said.

— F/C Michael Bradley (foot) is nearly ready to see some action. He practiced Monday as well.

“Michael is closer. It’s day-to-day,” Blaney said. “It’s still bothering him some.”

— Drummond, who is just 14-for-39 (35.9 percent) from the free throw line this year, so he’s been spending extra time after practice working on it. On Monday he was shooting one-handed from the line.

“It just helps give me muscle memory and not to rely on my left hand,” Drummond said. “The problem is I have my left hand on the ball way too much.”

A few more notes on the matchup:

— UConn has won 11 straight over Seton Hall as well as 18 of the last 19 and 25 of the last 27. The Huskies are 3-0 at “The Rock.”

— UConn moved up to 8th in both national polls Monday.

— Monday was UConn’s last practice without Calhoun. He’ll rejoin the team Wednesday in New Jersey. With school out and two games in the state this week, the Huskies are spending the week in the Garden State (lucky them).

— UConn is now 11-9 without Calhoun for entire games during his tenure.

— UConn is 2-0 in league play for the first time since 2003-04 season

— Blaney, of course, coached at Seton Hall for three seasons in the mid-1990’s. He went 39-47 at the helm with the Pirates.

Neill

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About Neill

Neill Ostrout covers the UConn men's basketball team for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester. He has been a member of the "Horde" for more than 16 years.
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