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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Color This Rose Tiger Blue

Color this Rose Tiger Blue
Chicago point-guard prodigy commits to UofM

By Dan Wolken
November 5, 2006

Memphis, meet your newest basketball superstar.

His name is Derrick Rose, he's one of the top five high school players in the country, and he said Saturday night at a news conference in his hometown of Chicago that he intends to play college basketball for John Calipari at the University of Memphis.

If Rose follows through with his non-binding verbal commitment and signs a letter of intent once the signing period begins Wednesday, he will join Dajuan Wagner and Penny Hardaway among the most highly rated recruits to ever attend Memphis.

Rose, a 6-2, 180-pound point guard, chose the Tigers over Indiana and Illinois.
"Before I made a decision, I visited my top three schools," Rose said. "I tried to evaluate the players, the coaches and the environment I'd be living in.

"I didn't sleep last night. I knew what I was doing, and there was just no way I could sleep."
Per NCAA rules, Calipari can't comment on recruits until they sign.

Rose joins shooting guard Jeff Robinson, a top-100 recruit from New Jersey, in Memphis' incoming class for 2007. Also considered a part of that class is former top-50 recruit Shawn Taggart, a 6-10 transfer from Iowa State who is sitting out this season due to NCAA rules but will be eligible next season.

Assuming all of Memphis' underclassmen return, Rose will join a team that loses only one scholarship player: senior guard Jeremy Hunt.

Given that Memphis is ranked No. 14 in this season's ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll, it's reasonable to project that the addition of Rose will make the Tigers a preseason top-five team next year. ranks Rose as the No. 3 player in the country overall and the top point guard, ahead of O.J. Mayo, who has not made a commitment. projects Rose as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, which would mean one year at Memphis before heading to the pros.

One interesting question the Tigers will face is how to handle their sudden logjam at point guard. Memphis already has two starting-quality point guards in freshman Willie Kemp and junior Andre Allen, both of whom are expected to return next year.

Rose's commitment to Memphis ends a long recruiting battle in which very little information was made public before Saturday's announcement. Rose himself had said almost nothing publicly, assigning his brother, Reggie Rose, to be the family spokesman.

In August, Derrick Rose released a list of his top-five schools, which included Memphis, Kansas, DePaul, Indiana and UCLA.

By the time Rose made his official visit to Memphis on the weekend of Oct. 13, the field had been narrowed to Memphis and Indiana, where his friend and top recruit Eric Gordon had committed.

Then, on Oct. 27, Rose made a surprise visit to Illinois, which made the guessing game even more intense over the past week.

But in the end, all the factors that seemed to be working against Memphis -- primarily its affiliation in Conference USA and its distance from Chicago -- apparently didn't outweigh the Tigers' rising national status and the appeal of playing for Calipari in an NBA city where he'll get maximum exposure.

Rose also mentioned style of play and the presence of former NBA point guard Rod Strickland, who played at DePaul and has Chicago ties. Strickland joined the Tigers' staff this year as the director of student-athlete development.

"I love the environment, the coaches and the players," Rose said. "Who better to learn from and help me develop than Rod Strickland? They told me I would start at point guard, and that I'll be able to play my game."

-- Dan Wolken: 529-2365

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