Stuff of legends
Pope Lives Up To The Hype, Finishes Fourth All-Time In County
Devin Pope’s name was in the meat of the conversation for 2016-17 Post-Journal Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
But with talents like Jamestown’s James Rojas, Frewsburg’s Cordell O’Brien and Sherman’s Chris Robson playing their final seasons in local high school uniforms, Chautauqua Lake’s star junior had to settle for a spot on the First Team.
In 2017-18, with the local boys basketball spotlight focused on him, Pope made the most of his senior season.
The 6-foot-2 guard averaged 30.2 points, 9.3 rebounds, 4.3 steals and 2.8 assists per game to lead the Thunderbirds to a 14-8 record, including 7-5 in Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association Division 1 West play.
He scored a career-high and school-record 52 points on 22-of-33 shooting from the floor in a 97-72 non-league win over Panama on Jan. 23.
“He had a couple of rough games in a row, at least for his standards,” Chautauqua Lake coach Mike Putney said following the performance. ” … he needed to come back and take control of the floor, and that’s what he did. He’s amazing. The kid never ceases to amaze me. It didn’t matter where on the floor, he was very determined.”
“We knew he was good and he could score a lot,” Panama coach Ed Nelson said that night. “We did everything we could to try to stop him but he was too big and too strong.”
His 22nd point during a 29-point Section VI Class C quarterfinal victory over Salamanca on Feb. 23 in Mayville gave him 2,000 points for his five-year career.
“He does everything. … He’s the first out there to do those little things … getting the rebounds, making the passes, getting the steals,” Putney said of Pope that night. “Yes, he’s an outstanding basketball player, but he’s one truly great young man.”
With 16 points in his final game — a sectional semifinal loss to Randolph — Pope finished with 2,023 points at Chautauqua Lake to place him in the top 100 all-time in New York state history, tied with Traditional’s Don Juan Tyson.
“Everything he gets I love, because he’s put the time in with this program,” Putney said as Pope approached the 2,000-point milestone.
The total also made Pope the fourth-highest scorer in Chautauqua Lake history behind Jamestown’s Maceo Wofford (2,258), Fredonia’s Michael Heary (2,235) and Maple Grove’s Chris Secky (2,067).
“Those are (three) great players. Maceo is a best still until this day,” Pope said that after the playoff win over Salamanca. “Michael Heary played DI, too, so it’s just awesome that I’m one of (four).”
Pope started the season out with a bang, scoring 35 and 41 points, respectively, in wins over Panama and Westfield before netting 40 points in a loss at non-league Franklinville.
The Ripley native eclipsed 30 points 13 times in 22 games, including topping 40 points in four of those games.
Pope had a triple-double with 40 points, 18 rebounds and 10 steals in the 72-60 Dec. 11 loss at Franklinville.
“He’s a great player,” Putney said of Pope following the loss. “I think he’s the best in Western New York and he’s on my team.”
He grabbed double-digit rebounds in 10 games and also surpassed five steals in 10 games.
The all-time leading scorer in Chautauqua Lake history will take his talents to NCAA Division III SUNY Geneseo next season where he will team up with two-time Post-Journal Player of the Year Zack Panebianco for the Knights.
“I went and visited, and as soon as I got there it felt like the right place. I went to a few games and the guys on the team seem like really good guys,” Pope said in early February. ” … It’s a good school as well. Going away from home for college was a big thing too.”
For climbing the Chautauqua County record books and putting together one of the finest seasons local basketball fans have ever seen, Pope is the 2017-18 Post-Journal Boys Basketball Player of the Year.