Burbank High's towering Pope brothers are an imposing collection of size and talent, and three reasons why the No. 7 Titans have big ambitions this season.
Senior Remle, who just turned 19, is 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds of imposing muscle and physicality he played football for Burbank as a middle linebacker as a junior.
Senior Emmanuel, who turns 18 today, is the Titans' wispy 6-5, 170-pound power forward who uses his quick feet and leaping ability to make up for his slender frame.
Sophomore Malik, 15, is already 6-7 make that 6-9 if you include his throwback hairstyle think Kid from Kid 'n Play and the most polished of the three. Blessed with supersized mitts and outsized athletic ability, he can play any position on the floor.
"They're athletic as all get-out, but with different strengths and personalities," says Burbank coach Lindsey Ferrell.
Ferrell's quick assessment of his trio:
Malik: "He has a huge upside, and I've told him he already is better than the best big man ever to come out of Burbank, James Donaldson, who played in the pros."
Remle: "He once thought his sport was football, but now he's figured out he likes basketball. He's our banger, and he's really getting after it now that he knows what his role is on the basketball team."
Emmanuel: "On any given day, you never know what you're going to get until game time. When he's on, he can make a huge difference."
Nicole Pope knows what she's going to get from her sons on game day: The excitement of watching her boys playing together on the same team for the first time and the challenge of trying to soothe bruised egos afterward.
"It's a blessing, exciting, rewarding and tiring," says Nicole, who is putting her studies in psychology at Cosumnes River College to good use. "I love the games. But it's hard being the mom afterwards. Maybe one or two didn't get to play as much as they thought they should, so they're upset. They're hurt."
With a deep and varied lineup led by seniors Jay Stone and Mitchell Love and other talented big men in juniors Kevin Gooch (6-5) and David Straughter (6-4), Ferrell's playing time for the brothers varies depending on opponents, matchups and who is playing well that game.
The brothers are rarely all on the court at the same time.
"Lindsey's got a tough job," said Nicole, who is 6-2 (father Remle Sr. is 6-6). "He's got Straughter and Gooch in addition to my sons, and he's trying to get them all in the rotation. Even Malik is upset sometimes because, as a sophomore, he has to take a back seat to the seniors. So I just tell them not to give up, to keep playing hard."
Playing hard is no problem when it's an inter-brother battle. There was no consensus on who wins most of the one-on-one matchups, although each claims superiority.
When it's mentioned that some are already calling Malik "The Man" he's one of Northern California's top sophomore prospects his older brothers shake their heads and smile.
"As far as him being 'The Guy' yeah, his senior year he'll be 'The Guy'," Remle responds. "But not right now."
Still, they love being together on the same team.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Emmanuel said. "It's odd, and it's cool."
Adds Malik, "It's different, unusual. It's good because we're pushing each other to get better."
Although they are unlikely to repeat as Metro Conference champions this season Burbank (18-6) trails first-place Sacramento by three games with three to play the Titans remain focused on their biggest goal: Playing for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship on March 3 at Power Balance Pavilion.
Nicole would love to see that, though she says the best thing about her four sons 12-year-old Tabarri is following in his brothers' footsteps and plays at Fern Bacon Middle School isn't their athletic talent but how they have persevered through difficult times.
"Their dad and I separated six years ago. " says Nicole, who aspires to start her own inner-city after-school enrichment program. "They went from having a home to being homeless for a year.
"They could be acting out. They could be bitter. Instead, they have been a blessing for me."