05/03/2010 10:12 AM ET
Seton Hall's Pope improving after collapse
Condition of Pirates' NBA-hopeful forward stabilizing
By Adam Zagoria / SNY.tv
Herb Pope averaged 11.5 points and a Big East-best 10.7 rebounds last season. (AP)

Less than two weeks ago, Herb Pope stood inside the Tarrytown Marriott wearing a brown sweater and matching shirt and tie and talking about his dreams of playing in the NBA.

On Monday, the 6-foot-8 Seton Hall sophomore forward lies in a bed at St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, N.J., after collapsing last Wednesday during a workout at the university's Recreation Center.

Multiple reports over the weekend indicated Pope's condition was improving, and Robert Morris coach Mike Rice told the Beaver County Times last week that Pope was "in stable condition" after his "heart stopped" and he suffered "seizures, convulsions and was vomiting."

"If he wouldn't have been so close to personnel that knew how to handle the situation, he wouldn't have made it," Rice, who knows Pope, told the Times.

Seton Hall, citing privacy laws, has been guarded with information on Pope's condition.

Meanwhile, Pope's friends and teammates have issued statements of support on Twitter.

Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, who grew up in Aliquippa, Pa., with Pope, wrote: "Seton Hall's Forward Herb Pope and a dear friend of mine send out ur love and support out to him and his family, he in the hospital. PRAY!!!"

Seton Hall freshman forward Ferrakohn Hall added on Sunday: "Hey everybody do me a favor please, if you attending church this sunday morning. Pray for my teammate #HerbPope."

Fuquan Edwin, a senior forward at Paterson (N.J.) Catholic High School, who has signed with Seton Hall for next year, said Sunday by phone. "I was talking to [assistant] coach Shaheen [Holloway] and he said he is doing better. He didn't give me much information."

Edwin added: "Everybody keeps praying for him. That's basically it. I'm gonna probably go to visit him soon."

Pope gave one of his last interviews before the collapse to SNY.tv on April 22 at the Tarrytown Marriott when he and teammate Jeremy Hazell were honored by the Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association.

Both players have declared for the NBA Draft but have yet to hire an agent, meaning they could return to school if they pull out of the draft by May 8.

"Now that I know Coach [Kevin] Willard a little more, now I kind of feel obligated to give him the best chance of me coming back and really look at it," Pope said then, a week before the collapse

"He obviously wants me back. He's excited about me and I'm excited about him. I love his style already and I like him as a person."

Still, Pope, who has a 2-year-old daughter, Hamari, back in Aliquippa, said he was strongly considering playing professionally.

"It obviously would be better to come back and get an education and that's the only thing that's holding me back," he said. "I want to come back and finish school, but I want to be able to play at the next level. I want to pursue my dream."

A source close to the Seton Hall program said he had gotten calls from two NBA agents in the three days prior to Pope's collapse asking questions about what type of young man he was.

In Seton Hall's final game of the season -- a first-round NIT loss to Texas Tech at the Prudential Center -- Pope twice hit a Texas Tech player in the groin. He was ejected from the game, the Pirates lost badly and former coach Bobby Gonzalez was fired the next day.

Pope averaged 11.5 points and a Big East-best 10.7 rebounds last season.

"He's an NBA rebounder," the Seton Hall source said.

Still, NBA scouts had concerns about Pope's background. He was shot four times at a party his senior year at Aliquippa High and rarely went back home for fear of retribution.

"Every time I go to the city of Pittsburgh that's where people that I run into are gang members," Pope told SNY.tv once. "Pittsburgh has got a lot of gangs affiliated with it.

Referring to his shooter, Pope added: "I just stay in Aliquippa. The kid just has a couple relatives in Aliquippa so it's not that bad of a problem in Aliquippa."

Pope was abandoned by his parents as a child and was raised by an aunt and uncle. His mother was in and out of prison and his father was a crack addict who was also incarcerated.

In addition to his aunt, Amy Pope-Smith, Pope is also close with former Knick Charles Smith, who serves as a mentor, and Revis, the Jets standout who is four years older.

"I came up a little rougher than him," Pope said of Revis in January. "He's got more stability in his life, so that's where we differentiate ourselves because he's got a family background structure and I really don't."

Now the members of the Seton Hall basketball community have become Pope's extended family and, whether or not he ever steps on a basketball court again, they are all hoping for his healthy recovery.

Adam Zagoria is a regular contributor to SNY.tv. Read his blog at ZagsBlog.com and follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/AdamZagoria.
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