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Mark Pope Describes "Exhilarating" Roster Building Experience

Nick Roushby:Nick Roush05/29/24


It’s been just over 45 days since Mark Pope was hired as the next Kentucky head basketball coach. There’s been little time for rest, but he is loving every minute of it.

A frequent flyer, this week he’s in Miramar Beach for the SEC Spring Meetings. He spent time on the set of The Paul Finebaum Show talking about all of the other flights he’s taken to add players and coaches to the Kentucky roster.

Pope’s priorities have continually shuffled, whether it’s hiring coaches, finding players from the portal, or recruiting high school talent. It sounds exhausting, but Pope describes building a team from scratch as ‘exhilarating.’

“We started essentially with zero players on the roster, which is terrifying at the University of Kentucky where the only thing acceptable is winning a National Championship. It’s hard to do that with no players. It’s hard to do with great players,” Pope said, making Paul chuckle.

“That was a terrifying way to start, but it’s also really exhilarating, especially for us. We push the envelope on style of play. We’re very, very much pushing a pro style of play and so it’s a little bit unique style of play college basketball. Getting to jump in the portal and go handpick guys that fit the way we play exactly, and to do it from the very beginning has actually been really exhilarating and we’re incredibly excited about the roster we put together so far, and can’t wait to get them on the court together.”

Pope really put an emphasis on the “so far” at the end of that statement. For a while, filling out a roster slid to the backseat while prospects like Jaxson Robinson and Wooga Poplar contemplated NBA Draft decisions. Well, they have until midnight to make a choice and Pope is ready to put his final two scholarships to good use.

Watch Mark Pope on The Paul Finebaum Show

During his almost 10-minute appearance on the SEC Network set, Pope revealed a few more things. The team will officially report to campus on June 10 and will begin workouts on June 17. He also talked about coaching without looking at the scoreboard, a lesson he learned from George Karl that was often a talking point for his predecessor in Lexington.

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