Herb Pope is returning to New Mexico State.
But make no mistake, it's not what he wanted to do.
He wanted to transfer closer to home -- perhaps to Seton Hall, where he visited recently after asking New Mexico State for a release. But faced with the reality of having to sit out a year once the NCAA likely denied a waiver for immediate eligibility requested because of an undisclosed "personal" issue, Pope informed the Aggies' staff Friday morning that he plans to enroll in classes at NMSU and proceed as planned.
|Herb Pope averaged 11.1 points in 16 games as a freshman at New Mexico State. (US Presswire)|
But only temporarily.
As surely as Pacman Jones will eventually wear out his welcome in Dallas and Brett Favre will waffle on his retirement plans again, Herb Pope will continue to force the New Mexico State staff into situations where it would be foolish to ever count on him in any major way. It might be another arrest or flirtation with a Big East school. Who knows?
Just trust me when I tell you this will not be the last time Marvin Menzies sits in his office scratching his head and wondering exactly how to resolve the latest Pope soap opera. That said, it's still hard to muster sympathy for New Mexico State because, let's be honest, this is what the program -- under former coach Reggie Theus -- signed up for when it invited Pope and his troubled past to be part of its future.
New Mexico State knew what it was getting.
The school knew Pope changed high schools more than most change socks. It knew he once punched his AAU coach. It knew he had been ticketed for harassment. It knew he was in an altercation that led to him being shot four times. And it knew many of the top coaches in the country ceased recruiting Pope because of these incidents -- including Bob Huggins, whose recruiting philosophy basically revolves around the theory that you can't clean a fish until you catch it.
Regardless, Huggins was afraid to touch Pope.
But New Mexico State still welcomed him and swore he just needed a new environment.
And on some level, I get it.
It's hard to come by talents like Pope when you are New Mexico State. So for the same reasons Oklahoma City College is open to accepting Louisville's Derrick Caracter, New Mexico State was open to accepting Pope, because he had the tools to be a difference-maker in the WAC, evidence being how the Aggies last season were 9-10 without him and 12-4 with him.