Simeon's Rose headed to Memphis
Guard passes on Illinois, Indiana
By Brian Hamilton, Chicago Tribune staff reporter
November 4, 2006, 10:12 PM CST
Derrick Rose approached the podium Saturday night with some 140 guests and a phalanx of microphones in front of him, plus a glitzy chandelier dangling overhead. Over his right shoulder, the embossed mirror designated the space as the "Celebrity Room" at the Martinique banquet hall.But for all the recruiting histrionics, and for all the melodramatic buildup to his college decision, the prized Simeon point guard couldn't affect a superstar's aura at the mike.
"Man," Rose said, surveying the scene, "I'm so nervous right now."
Moments later Rose quelled the anxiety and announced he would play college basketball at Memphis—where, for all the hullabaloo, most everyone figured he would end up anyway.
Thus Illinois and Indiana fell by the wayside. Rose said he arrived at the decision two weeks ago but managed to keep it from even prying Simeon teammates until Saturday.
"After all my visits, me and my family sat down," Rose said. "They asked me what school I wanted to go to, and after I told them, I was looking sad—I was like, man, this is a life-changing decision. And if I messed it up, it could be my career."I prayed, I asked God to help me, because I was so scared. The next morning, my fear was gone."
Now Rose, rivals.com's No. 3-ranked prospect nationally, officially joins the list of in-state recruits escaping Illinois and coach Bruce Weber. Rose conceded an 11th-hour visit to Champaign last weekend put a smidgen of doubt in his mind, but otherwise remained diplomatic."
It's a good school and everything, but Memphis to me was better," Rose said of Illinois. "That was my opinion. That's why I chose Memphis."
His older brother and recruiting adviser, Reggie, said the Illini's welcome last weekend differed from previous visits. (By NCAA rules, Weber cannot comment on a recruit until he signs a letter of intent to any school.)"
The recruiting changed—it went from 'Derrick, you're a regular recruit' to 'Derrick, you're a program-changing recruit,'" Reggie Rose said. "If you would've had that setup from the get-go, things could've been different. ... The atmosphere [last weekend], it was like he was a rock star. Every other recruiting visit we went to, Derrick was a rock star. But the [first] visit we went to Illinois, it was just, 'Hey, Derrick, how you doing.'"
With Memphis, the 6-foot-4-inch Rose will have the ball in his hands instantly. The presence of point guard Willie Kemp, a well-regarded freshman for the Tigers this season, isn't likely to matter."They told me if I came, I'd be able to start at point guard and that I'll be able to play my game," Rose said.
Rose won't be long for Beale Street, his NBA aspirations after one or two college seasons no secret. But even that horizon was too far to look toward Saturday, as Rose reveled in some relative peace.He said Eric Gordon, his equally vaunted AAU teammate who switched commitments from Illinois to Indiana, called five times Saturday.
Rose didn't answer thanks to the frayed nerves, which no longer seemed an issue that evening as he made his way through the crowd with a Memphis hat on his head and a smile on his face."I didn't get to sleep last night, really," Rose said. "I'm going to sleep nice now."
Simeon's Kevin Johnson and Tim Flowers made it a 2-for-1, with both players committing to play at Wisconsin-Milwaukee at the news conference.