The Ottumwa boys basketball team will have to find a way to overcome the loss of its most prolific scorer this season.
Faith Pope, a 6-foot-6 All-CIML Metro Conference first selection last season (he also was third team all-state), will take his formidable talents elsewhere this season. The Bulldog leading scorer has made the move from Ottumwa to defending state champion Mount Pleasant (Class 3A).
Pope said he thinks his new team can repeat as champs this season. Pope had a superb junior season with the Bulldogs; he led the league in scoring with 16.6 points per game. Far from just being a scoring threat; Pope also was one of the league’s top rebounders and most fearsome shot blockers. He ranked fourth in the league in rebounds with 9 per game and second in blocks with 64 on the year. Pope shot 53 percent from the field and 72.6 percent from the foul line.
The 6-6 big man will get to play against his old teammates when the Panthers visit Evans Middle School Feb. 4. Ottumwa fell to Mount Pleasant 58-41 when the two teams squared off last season. Pope was the only Bulldog to score in double figures, dropping 16 points on his future team.
Pope said he thinks it will be fun to play against his old teammates. As for why he made the jump to Mount Pleasant, he said there were just more opportunities for him there. And developing a chemistry with his new squad shouldn’t be a problem, Pope said, because many of his new teammates play on his AAU team.
Pope joins a Panther squad that will have to make due without two of its key contributors last season. The all-state duo of Jordan Ashton and Nick Lyon both graduated after shepherding Mount Pleasant to its first state title in 94 years. The addition of Pope should compensate for these losses to some degree.
With Pope’s departure and their two other top scorers — Ben Kramer and Eric Thorgaard both graduated — the Bulldogs will need to get the breadth of their scoring from some new sources.
Pope and his family are currently dealing with something much more important then basketball. Pope’s father, Gregory Pope, died of cancer Monday at the age of 55