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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Chicago Sun Times - Derrick Rose ready for Garden party

Derrick Rose ready for Garden party

November 14, 2007
By Lacy J. Banks

Considering the buzz he’s generating after just two games at Memphis, it seems fitting Derrick Rose’s post-Simeon coming-out party will be at Madison Square Garden tonight before a national television audience.

For now, he’s leading the No. 3 Tigers (2-0), who play Oklahoma (3-0) tonight in the College Hoops Classic (7 p.m. ESPN2).

‘‘I’ve been watching him since high school and I believe he’s the best freshman in the country,’’ ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said. ‘‘He’s a pass-first point guard who understands how to run a team and how to win.

‘‘Plus, he’s supremely talented. There’s no freshman out there who is more talented. He adds size, athleticism and great open-court abilities. He’s essentially a more athletic Jason Kidd.’’

That’s high praise, even without the Kidd comparison, because this looks to be one of the best freshman classes in years with 6-8 forward Michael Beasley (averaging 31 points, 19 rebounds) at Kansas State , 6-5 guard O.J. Mayo (32 ppg, 7.0 ppg) at USC and 6-4 guard Eric Gordon (33 points in one game) at Indiana.

Rose, who won two Class AA titles and was the Sun-Times Player of the Year last season, is averaging 19 points, 3.0 assists and 5.5 rebounds while shooting 58 percent from the field.

‘‘Rose is an incredible talent with a great upside because of his phenomenal feel for the game,’’ ESPN’s Dick Vitale said. ‘‘He attacks the rim very, very viciously, can explode himself into traffic and he has an awesome assortment of layups he can utilize so that once he gets into traffic he can score in so many ways.

‘‘Obviously, you will hear that he’s got to work a little more on his perimeter shot and he knows that. I heard the same thing about Magic Johnson. But there’s not a coach in America who wouldn’t want Rose because he is such a special player who is a winner, who has great vision and was made to play this game.’’

Can Rose lead Memphis to the NCAA championship as a freshman?

‘‘Absolutely,’’ Vitale said. ‘‘They’ve already advanced to the Elite Eight two years in a row without him. He’s just the final piece to the puzzle for John Calipari to take his team to the title. Calipari already has the right surrounding parts. So the talent is so deep on this team that Rose can have a bad night and this team can still win.’’

Meantime, the numbers by the other freshmen aren’t being ignored by Vitale and Bilas.

‘‘All those eye-popping numbers simply show that this is one of the best freshman classes that I have seen in years,’’ Vitale said.

Memphis coach John Calipari is beginning to sound wary of the media avalanche, which included an ESPN magazine cover story.

‘‘We have five guys who won 66 games the last two years,’’ Calipari said Wednesday on ESPN. ‘‘I called a meeting at my house, and I shortened practice because I thought it was so important to talk about how this is going down.

‘‘We’re on our way to New York and the whole thing is going to be Derrick Rose, Derrick Rose, and it’s not him. He doesn’t even want the attention. Part of it is how the player who’s getting all the attention handles it. Does he defer to his team? He’s handled it.’’

And don’t expect it to subside any time soon.

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