Rose blooms in early workouts
Calipari sees promise in freshman's natural abilities
By Dan Wolken
Sunday, September 30, 2007
Less than two weeks before the University of Memphis begins practice for one of the most-anticipated seasons in school history, freshman point guard Derrick Rose knows, by coach John Calipari's estimate, "probably two percent" of the Tigers' offense.
And Rose, by his own admission, is still a few weeks away from connecting the dots on even the most basic principles of Memphis' style of play.
But through the first four hours Calipari has been allowed to work with Rose in September, this much is clear: Rose's talent transcends X's and O's, his quickness and athleticism giving him the ability to make plays nobody else on the Tigers' roster can make.
"God blessed me with the speed and IQ to get past people," Rose said. "But it's hard. It's real hard right now."
Hard, of course, is a relative term. During Wednesday's two-hour session -- the NCAA allows one off-season workout per week -- Rose routinely beat junior Antonio Anderson off the dribble. That's the same Anderson, by the way, who was last seen locking up first-round NBA Draft pick Acie Law IV in a Sweet 16 game against Texas A&M.
And when Calipari sees that, he can't help but be a little more forgiving when Rose makes the wrong pass or gives up the ball in a two-on-one drill when he should have elevated for a lay-up.
"He's going against one of the best perimeter defenders in college basketball, who shows great respect for him, gets away from him, backs off, tries whatever he can to stay in front of him," Calipari said. "He's a little bit out of bounds, a little bit in a hurry. I want him to be fast but patient. But he'll learn."
And Rose is so ready to learn, in fact, that he is spending three, four, sometimes five hours a day in the Finch Center, shooting jumper after jumper by himself, trying to refine the only obviously weak part of his game.
"I'm a gym rat," he said. "It's normal."
No matter how much time Rose spends in the gym, it will probably take weeks or perhaps months of practice before he makes the adjustments that will truly integrate him into Memphis' offense.
The first thing Rose must do is get in the mindset of attacking the basket at every opportunity with the intent to score lay-ups and not attempt to make more difficult plays to simply keep his teammates involved.
"Scoring, that's what coach is going to be on me about, to shoot lay-ups and attack the rim every time I get the ball," he said. "I'm going to have to get used to attacking."
Second, Rose must learn to throw lob passes to his post players to finish transition opportunities instead of throwing bounce passes or bullet feeds, which are more difficult to handle on the move.
"My center (in high school) was 6-4, the same height as me," Rose said. "He had good hands, and he was catching all my passes. I've got to get used to it, and I will in another two or three weeks. I have to change the way I play."
Still Rose, to this point, looks every bit as good as advertised -- even if he's still not quite there yet.
"For now, he's got to do it through watching tape," Calipari said. "We've only had four hours of practice. But what happens is, when you feel 'it,' you're unleashed. When you don't feel it, you're tentative because you don't know when to go. As soon as he feels 'I can go' ... "
Calipari never finished the sentence, but he didn't have to. The season hasn't even started, but already, his imagination is running wild.