Chautauqua Lake’s Pope will play for Geneseo
Devin Pope’s high school basketball career will end later this month or in early March.
The Ripley native will graduate from Chautauqua Lake Central School in June.
Now he knows where both will continue next year.
The starting guard announced Thursday evening on Twitter that he will attend SUNY Geneseo, an NCAA Division III institution, next fall and play 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 late Thursday night. “… It’s a good school as well. Going away from home for college was a big thing too.”
At Geneseo, Pope will join Zack Panebianco in the Knights’ back court. Panebianco attended Division II Roberts Wesleyan for two years before transferring to Geneseo this fall. He will be a senior on next year’s roster.
“We talked a lot about it. I played against him in summer league and I knew him from playing around. He told me he loves it and we hung out during my visit,” Pope said. “He said he wishes he would’ve gone there right off the bat for four years because he loves it.”
While Pope is already looking forward to his collegiate career, he still has some work to do before ending his Chautauqua Lake career.
Already the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,934 points, the 6-foot-2 guard will look to join an elite New York state club with 2,000 points in his career.
“It’s obviously a big goal I want to reach, but also just winning games is even bigger than that – making a run in playoffs,” Pope said. “(2,000 points) is just an extra cherry on top.”
That journey will continue tonight when Olean visits Mayville for a CCAA Division 1 West battle. The Huskies held Pope to his lowest-scoring output of the season with 13 points in a 89-55 loss on Jan. 29.
“I never thought of it,” said Pope, who was called up to the varsity team halfway through his eighth-grade season. “I always wanted to be a 1,000-point scorer. I never relized I could get to 2,000.”
The Thunderbirds close out their regular season Tuesday at Southwestern before beginning their Section VI Class C playoff run.
While Pope is one of three seniors on this year’s team, he credited a pair of 2017 graduates and childhood friends from Ripley, Aaron Swan and Tyler Meredith, with a lot of his success.
“They pushed me to be better every day,” Pope said. “I should give almost all the credit to them because they found me, were able to get me the ball to score and they were great mentors on the court. I looked up to them.”
Ironically, Pope noted that a former Ripley girls basketball star, 2008 Post-Journal Player of the Year Sam Eimers, probably first put the idea in his head that he could be a 1,000-point scorer on the court.
“I was a manager when she was on the team and they went to states her senior year,” said Pope, recalling the Eagles’ 2008 run.
Scoring 1,000 points is already a lofty milestone, but nearing 2,000 is even more impressive, putting Pope in the conversation as one of the greatest players in recent Chautauqua County history, joining the likes of Maceo Wofford, Michael Heary and Chris Secky — all three-time Post-Journal Players of the Year.
“It feels good, just to know that I am up there with some of the top players to ever play in New York state,” Pope said. “Even being close to (2,000) is a huge milestone.”
Regardless of when Pope’s career comes to an end, either during the Section VI playoffs, or later in the NYSPHSAA postseason, his records at Chautauqua Lake will likely stand for years to come.
“Having options to go play basketball somewhere is a good feeling because I’ve worked so hard at it,” Pope said. “I’m hopefully being rewarded for that.”