Pima Community College sports

Mike Pope makes impressive return from shoulder injury in Pima’s high-scoring win

Pima’s Mike Pope finished with a season-high 25 points in the win over Phoenix College on Wednesday (Jasper Sorenson/Pima Athletics)

The last time Pima coach Brian Peabody had all of his players suit up for a game was on New Year’s Eve, when sharpshooter Mike Pope went down with a separated-shoulder injury.

Pope, a 6-foot-3 guard, finally made it a Happy New Year on Wednesday in his first game back since suffering the injury. His season-high 25 points fueled a highly-potent offense in a 106-92 win over Phoenix College at the Aztec West Gym.

The former San Diego State walk-on from Torrey Pines (Calif.) High School made 8 of 12 shots from the field, including 6 of 8 from 3-point range. He also made all three of his free-throw attempts.

“He’s one of the better shooters I’ve ever coached in the 30 years doing this,” said Peabody who is in his 11th year at Pima and has also coached 19 seasons at the high school level.

“We finally got all of our pieces back; we’re healthy for the first time. We haven’t played with that starting five in about a month so it just felt good to have everybody back.”

Pope missed six games, a stretch in which Pima struggled offensively, not reaching 80 points in four of the games. In consecutive losses before Wednesday, the Aztecs did not reach 70 points — 89-64 loss at Chandler-Gilbert last week and a 74-68 defeat at Central Arizona on Saturday.

The Aztecs (17-3, 9-3 ACCAC) had 59 points by halftime against Phoenix College and Pope was the leading scorer with 14 points, shooting 5 of 8 from the field, 3 of 5 from beyond the arc.

“It felt good,” Pope said of his shoulder. “I’ve gotten a lot of shots up in the last week. I was ready to play and excited to get back on the court. My shot felt really good so I’m happy.”

Pope became familiar with the Pima program and Peabody at the suggestion of his high school coaches after two years at San Diego State — 2019-20 as a walk-on and 2020-21 as a student. He redshirted with Pima last season.

His identical twin brother Bryce is presently a fourth-year junior at UC San Diego and is that team’s leading scorer averaging 18.9 points a game. Mike and Bryce led Torrey Pines to a 25-7 record and the CIF Open Division championship as seniors in 2018-19.

Mike Pope, whose family lives in Del Mar, Calif., classifies as a freshman because this is his first season on the court although this is his fourth year in college.

“I came here and it’s been a great fit; it’s been awesome,” Mike Pope said.

Pope’s unflappable demeanor matched with his hustle to get to the right spots and his shooting ability rubs off on his teammates. That’s evidenced by Pima having five players with at least 14 points and the Aztecs shooting 53.6 percent from the field, including 16 of 30 from 3-point range, against Phoenix College.

Pima had 24 assists led by six from Cesar Saenz and four each by Traivar Jackson and Dillan Baker. Five others had two assists, including Mike Pope. ‘

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard him speak yet,” Peabody said with a smile of Pope. “He just goes about his business, which I like those guys. He’s all about doing his business and going home. He does it well and he did it tonight.

“I feel really happy for him because when he got hurt, he wanted to play … separated shoulder. He’s been in the gym every single day rehabbing, shooting and doing everything he can to get back. A lot of guys wouldn’t do that. He did and it’s obviously paid off for him tonight.”

Phoenix College (8-12, 3-9) never recovered after the Aztecs went a 16-0 run in a span of only about 4 minutes to take a 31-14 lead with 10:59 left in the first half. Mike Pope’s 3-pointer and layup capped the run.


The Bears feature former Cholla standout forward Rubén Cázares, a sophomore who finished with 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the field with four rebounds in 22 minutes. Cázares had a large group supporters including family and friends in the stands. Cázares, 6-foot-8 and 210 pounds, is averaging 6.1 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. …

Peabody’s record as Pima’s coach is now 195-122. He is 639-245 overall in his 30 years of coaching that includes stints at Green Fields, St. Gregory, Salpointe and Ironwood Ridge. …

Baker, a Salpointe grad, finished with 18 points. Saenz, a Sabino alum who played with Phoenix College last year, had 15 points. Jackson finished with 15 points and Jamison Kay added 14 points while making 3 of 5 from 3-point range. …

Pima’s offensive output against Phoenix College now has the Aztecs No. 2 in the nation in scoring (102.3 points a game) and assists (23.8). …

The Aztecs next host Yavapai (6-14, 3-9) on Saturday at 2 p.m. Pima defeated Yavapai at Prescott in the first meeting by a score of 84-77 on Dec. 3.


ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

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