New Mexico State still waiting for standout recruit

Updated: January 8, 2008, 5:14 PM ET
Associated Press

CORAOPOLIS, Pa. -- New Mexico State freshman Herb Pope has waived his right to a preliminary hearing on a drunken driving charge filed by police who say they found Pope passed out in a running car on a western Pennsylvania highway.

The decision to waive Tuesday's hearing means Pope will be scheduled to stand trial in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court.

Officers found the 19-year-old Pope unresponsive in the driver's seat with the engine running in the Pittsburgh suburb of Moon Township on Dec. 28.

According to the criminal complaint, police had to pound on the driver's side window with a flashlight and turn on a cruiser's siren to awaken Pope. The car then lurched forward, bumping into the police cruiser, and an officer then smashed the driver's side window with a flashlight and turned off the ignition.

The 19-year-old Pope was heralded as "the highest profile student athlete to ever sign with Aggie hoops," according to his biography on the school's Web site. He had been academically ineligible at New Mexico State before a New Mexico judge ordered an end to the NCAA ban. The 6-foot-8 Pope has yet to play for the Aggies.

The eligibility question focused on an alternative education program Pope took in high school.

One of the nation's top recruits last season, he chose New Mexico State over Cincinnati, Kansas State, Louisville, Maryland, Memphis, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh and Texas.

Defense attorney Arnie Klein said he doesn't know whether the drunken driving case will affect Pope's playing status. Klein said Pope is scheduled to return to New Mexico on Wednesday.

A New Mexico State spokeswoman declined comment Tuesday. The school said earlier that Pope had been suspended indefinitely for violation of university and team rules.

Pope, who is charged with driving under the influence, reckless endangerment and a parking violation, is scheduled to be formally arraigned on March 26.

In March, Pope was shot four times in Aliquippa. A Pittsburgh man pleaded guilty to attempted homicide and was sentenced to six to 16 years in prison last month.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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