The Daily Aztec

Kell, Pope tasked to lead Aztecs in senior season

Senior+guard+Trey+Kell+breaks+away+for+a+dunk+during+SDSU%27s+loss+to+Arizona+State+in+Dec.+16.
Senior guard Trey Kell breaks away for a dunk during SDSU's loss to Arizona State in Dec. 16.

Senior guard Trey Kell breaks away for a dunk during SDSU's loss to Arizona State in Dec. 16.

File Photo

File Photo

Senior guard Trey Kell breaks away for a dunk during SDSU's loss to Arizona State in Dec. 16.

by Abraham Jewett, Assistant Sports Editor

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San Diego State men’s basketball is counting on the senior leadership of guard Trey Kell and forward Malik Pope, who were named team captains for the upcoming 2017 season by first-year head coach Brian Dutcher.

Kell and Pope are the only two returning seniors from last years team, which finished with a record of 19-14 and failed to reach postseason play for the first time since 2004-05.

Dutcher, who has been a part of the coaching staff since 1999 as an assistant to outgoing head coach Steve Fisher, said that his two seniors have all the intangibles needed in order to lead the Aztecs in his inaugural head coaching season.

“There’s a lot of things that go into success,” Dutcher said. “It’s attitude, effort, and good health, and that’s what both these seniors seem to be enjoying right now.”

Kell led the Aztecs during the 2016 season in points-per-game with 13.2, and also led the team in assists (96), steals (45), defensive rebounds (145) , field goals attempted (381), free throws attempted (145), free throws made (111) and minutes played (1050).

Kell has never seen himself as a loud voice on the team, but said that as a captain he is working on speaking up more and plans to lead by example.

That’s something I’m working on, to be more vocal,” Kell said. “I’m not the most rah-rah guy, you know, be in the middle of everybody, but I feel like once we start playing I’m pretty vocal.”

Pope is also not seen by teammates as too vocal, but junior forward Max Montana said that despite Pope and Kell’s quiet demeanor, their ability to lead by example will be a big asset.

“They’re not the most verbal guys, but they do their captain work in other ways like actions and showing exactly how the coaches want everything to be done,” Montana said.

Pope battled injuries last season, missing nine games with a knee ailment, and said that he has worked hard during the offseason, in order to ensure that he would come into the season at full strength.

“I changed my diet, my habits, my work ethic,” Pope said. “That’s what the summer was about to me, you know pushing through the season preparing my body.”

Dutcher has noticed Pope’s rejuvenated health coming into the new year.

“(Pope) battled injury all last year, and I think he feels good that he’s healthy and starting a year where he feels like he’s at full strength,” Dutcher said.

Despite only playing in 24 games in 2016, Pope finished third on the team in total rebounds (147), averaging 6.1 per contest, had the highest three point shooting percentage on the team last year (.392), and finished with the fifth most points, scoring an average of 11.1 per game.

Pope said that he is excited to be named one of the leaders of the team, and plans to show his teammates how to play the game the right way.

“It means a lot… I’m excited to be a captain,” Pope said. “(Being captain) just means making the right plays… leading by example.”

Dutcher has seen a physical transformation from Kell, who had already proven his durability by playing in all 33 of the Aztecs games last season, only one of two players to do so, along with now-graduated guard Dakarai Allen.

“When you look at (Kell) it’s more than just getting in the gym and shooting,” Dutcher said. “It’s diet, it’s weight room, you look at him and he looks like a new player he’s in the best shape of a four year career.”

Kell said that the secret to his improved physique is staying away from fast food and eating his fruits and vegetables, something which he admits he does begrudgingly.

“(I’ve been) just trying to stay away from the fast food, late night you know getting hungry,” Kell said. “Just eating more fruit and vegetables. I mean I hate vegetables, I’m gonna be honest. But there’s ways you gotta suck it up and eat it.”

After four years wearing Aztecs scarlet and black, Pope and Kell have had plenty experiences on the court, something which junior guard Jeremy Hemsley said will go a long way towards helping them lead the team this season.  

“I think them being team captains is something that’s going to help the team,” Hemsley said. “This their senior year, they been through this many times so I think they’re perfect guys for leading us.”

Kell recognizes that being a senior marks the end of a chapter in his basketball life, and said that it is extra motivation going into his final year.

“I think it motivates everybody in a way… you know it’s your last go around,” Kell said. “You get that extra motivation, that extra focus… every practice is crucial, every game is even more crucial.”

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1 Comment

One Response to “Kell, Pope tasked to lead Aztecs in senior season”

  1. Paul Crandell on November 1st, 2017 6:14 pm

    In the third paragraph…the word should be “a part”, not “apart”. The misuse of this word baffles me but it is an epidemic. Best wishes.

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