The first time he broke his leg was spooky enough.
But reinjuring the limb repeating the same motion? It hardly seems fair.
Last February, Malik Pope was exhibiting layup drills with his Laguna Creek High School basketball teammates at a nearby middle school.
Ever the showman, Pope acknowledged the admiring young crowd pleading for him to launch into flight. The 6-foot-8 Pope took off for a dunk.
He never reached the rim. His tibia broke just below the left knee on his way up, the force of his ascent too great for his still-maturing growth plates.
Pope missed the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs. The Cardinals never recovered, either. He healed, rehabilitated the leg and was poised for a monster senior season to back up his national recruiting profile. Then, more misery.
On Sept. 7 in Natomas in an Elite 50 prospect showcase, Pope was warming up and decided to elevate. Again, he never reached the rim. Pope knew by the time he landed that the left leg had given out, his senior season finished before it even started.
"The only reason I stepped on the court was because I was ready, healed," Pope said in soft, measured tones. "I was devastated. I'm on the floor, and I can't believe this has happened again. My season, out the window."
Pope's optimism is as remarkable as his skill set – ballhandling, shooting, defense. Now 6-9, the still-growing Pope has been told by his physician that he will fully recover. He also tore the meniscus in his knee in the September break.
"The doctor said it was very unusual to have my leg break on the way up," Pope said. "I'm doing OK. I don't feel emotionally down, but I am disappointed. I guess I have a good spirit. I'll make a bad situation into a good one."
It's already happened. On Wednesday night, Pope gave a verbal commitment to San Diego State coach Steve Fisher, the former Fab Five coach at Michigan. Pope continues the Sacramento pipeline for the Aztecs, from Chase Tapley of Sacramento High to Xavier Thames of Pleasant Grove to freshmen D'Erryl Williams and Dakarai Allen of Sheldon. Tapley, Williams and Allen each won Bee Player of the Year honors.
Pope said he is moved that the Aztecs still recruited him despite the injuries. He said he will be the best teammate on crutches this winter for his Laguna Creek teammates. And he'll heed his doctor's advice, too.
"Milk," he said. "I'll be drinking more milk than ever. He gave me a lecture on that."
Willie Tucker, Cal Poly's leading receiver, may be lost for the season with the same sort of injury that cost him his junior season at Oak Ridge. The Mustangs junior tore the medial collateral ligament in his left knee in last Saturday's 24-10 loss to Yale.
An MCL injury in his right knee sidelined Tucker for the 2010 season at Oak Ridge. He rebounded to lead the Sac-Joaquin Section in 2011 with 55 catches for 1,257 yards and 14 touchdowns. He vows a similar return at Cal Poly.
D.J. Wilson, a 6-9 wing for Capital Christian who verbally committed to Michigan earlier this week, could become the first area player to compete in the Big Ten Conference out of high school.
Ayanna Edwards, a 6-4 post at Sac High, verbally committed to Arizona State. The hard-working senior who goes by "Shaq" has dramatically improved her skills through the years, her prep coaches said.
Joe Davidson and Mike Finnerty break down high school and college sports each Saturday on ESPN 1320 from 9 to 10 a.m.