05/12/2010 9:59 PM ET
Pope expected to make full recovery
Herb Pope is reportedly all right after collapsing on April 28
By Adam Zagoria / SNY.tv
Herb Pope looks to be healthy again, which could signify promising things for the Seton Hall program. (AP)

NEW YORK -- Seton Hall sophomore forward Herb Pope is expected to make a "full recovery" from his April 28 collapse and could return to the basketball court next season, multiple sources with knowledge said.

"Yes. Should be a full recovery!" Charles Smith, the former NBA player who now serves as a mentor to Pope, wrote in a text message.

Amy Pope-Smith, Pope's aunt, is expected to hold a press conference sometime in the near future to provide more details about her nephew's condition.

Pope sounded alert when answering a phone call from a reporter on Tuesday and indicated he would call back, but never did. He did not respond to several text messages seeking comment.

The 6-foot-8 Pope must be cleared by doctors to resume basketball activities, but if he is, Seton Hall could be one of the more dangerous teams in the Big East under first-year coach Kevin Willard.

"I think if Herb Pope returns with that personnel and the type of coach Kevin Willard is, you're looking at a team that's possibly a Top-25 team and a team that will contend to be at the top of the Big East," one Big East assistant coach said Wednesday.

"With Kevin's style of play and those kids, I think that team could be tremendous."

Seton Hall finished 19-13 last season, 9-9 in the Big East.

During an interview Wednesday in New York prior to the presentation of the Winged Foot Award at the New York Athletic Club, Willard politely declined comment on Pope.

But he did say he was "excited" about next year's team.

"I'm excited about the kids we have in the program," said Willard, who took over the Big East program March 28 after Bobby Gonzalez was fired. "I'm excited about where we can go with this team. There's no promises, no anything. But the six weeks I was here, working with them, getting to know them, great kids. I'm really excited about where we can go."

Had the Pirates beaten Notre Dame in the Big East tournament instead of losing, 68-56, they may well have been invited to the NCAA tournament. Instead, they fell to Texas Tech in the first round of the NIT.

Pope was ejected from that game after twice punching a Texas Tech player below the belt. Pope then collapsed after an April 28 workout at Seton Hall.

Mike Rice, then the Robert Morris coach and now the Rutgers coach, told the Beaver County Times after the incident that Pope was "in stable condition" after his "heart stopped" and he suffered "seizures, convulsions and was vomiting."

He was taken to St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, N.J.

Seton Hall, citing privacy laws, has been guarded with information on Pope's condition. Pope averaged 11.5 points and a Big East-best 10.7 rebounds last season.

He and teammates Jeremy Hazell and Jeff Robinson tested the NBA waters, only to pull their names out of the draft and return to campus.

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

"Now that I know Coach 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."

Junior guard Keon Lawrence recently underwent knee surgery but is expected to make a full recovery, Willard said.

"Keon had knee surgery to clean up a meniscus," Willard said. "He had it my first week there [in April]. He's back, he's been rehabbing, he's been working hard. He should be hopefully back next month."

Lawrence averaged 4.4 points and 2.1 assists last season.

He was suspended for the first portion of the season after driving the wrong way on the Garden State Parkway and hitting another vehicle.

He was charged with assault-by-auto and driving with a suspended license.

Willard officially named his staff on Wednesday, giving former Seton Hall standout Shaheen Holloway the title of associate head coach.

Holloway worked under Willard at Iona.

Former Iona assistant Dan McHale will be the second assistant and Chris Pompey, who recruited Pope to New Mexico State, is the third.

Steve Sauers, who served as the Pirates' Director of Basketball Operations under Gonzalez from 2006-08, will serve the same role under Willard.

Grant Billmeier, another former Seton Hall player, and Casey Stanley will be the coordinators of basketball operations.

"I think we've assembled a talented staff of both familiar faces and new personnel to coach these young men and best represent Seton Hall," Willard said in a statement. "We've hit the ground running and are already looking forward to next season."

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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