Thursday, December 13, 2007
NY Times - A Memphis Freshman Needs No Orientation
A Memphis Freshman Needs No Orientation
By JOSHUA ROBINSON, New York Times
Published: December 6, 2007
In an instant six years ago, Reggie Rose realized his younger brother Derrick was not just another middle school basketball player.
They were with their other brothers, Allan and Dwayne, on their mother’s couch in Chicago, watching a video of Derrick’s seventh-grade team. Amid the usual blend of sloppy passing and clumsy dribbling, one play stood out. They rewound the tape and watched it again. And again.
“The little guard on the team came down the court and threw the ball up,” Reggie Rose said. “Then someone just came up and dunked the ball. We were like, ‘Who’s the kid who just dunked the ball?’ and Derrick says, ‘That’s me.’”
Now, Derrick Rose is the starting point guard for No. 2 Memphis, a team with national-championship aspirations, and is one of the most highly regarded freshmen in college basketball. In a season teeming with new talent, Rose is often mentioned with guard O. J. Mayo of Southern California, Kansas State forward Michael Beasley and guard Eric Gordon at Indiana.
“Yeah, but I like the freshman I’ve got,” Memphis Coach John Calipari said Tuesday night, after his team improved to 7-0 with a 62-58 overtime victory against Mayo and U.S.C. in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden. “I wouldn’t trade him for anyone. He’s a great player and a great kid.”
Rose’s night started slowly. By halftime, he had two rebounds, two assists and more turnovers (two) than points (none). But he fought through a stingy U.S.C. defense and pulled his game together down the stretch to finish with 9 points and 10 rebounds.
“He played the way he did because U.S.C. mucked up the game, and he’s not ready to be a quarterback,” Calipari said. “He can’t drop back, read the defense and do a Tom Brady yet. But when he is, he’s going to be unbelievable.”
Rose, who is 6 feet 3 inches and 190 pounds, is averaging 15.9 points and 4.3 assists a game, picking up where he left off in high school last season. He was named Mr. Basketball in Illinois after averaging 25.2 points, 9.1 rebounds, 8.8 assists and 3.4 steals his senior year at Simeon Career Academy, which claimed its second consecutive state title.
But his real basketball education came on the South Side of Chicago at Murray Park, where he would often spend seven or eight hours a day.
“I was playing with people older than I was, and that’s one of the reasons my basketball I.Q. is so high,” Rose said after Tuesday’s game. “They were teaching me all the tricks of the trade, because if I ever tried to do stupid things, I knew they’d steal the ball from me.”
He soon caught the eye of recruiters at Illinois, Indiana and Memphis. Ultimately, Rose said, it was the veteran players at Memphis who made the difference.
The Tigers have returned all five starters from the team that finished 33-4 last season and reached the Round of 8 of the N.C.A.A. tournament. It was the team’s second straight appearance in that round.
So far, the team leaders have not disappointed: the junior guard Chris Douglas-Roberts is averaging 20.1 points a game, and the senior forward Joey Dorsey is averaging 9.2 rebounds.
Calipari said he hoped that adding Rose’s speed to the mix would allow the Tigers to execute the kind of “spread-the-court, dribble-drive game” that can keep them playing into April.
But this may be Calipari’s only chance to make the most of Rose’s talent. Although Rose said he had not yet thought about next year, he is already considered a potential first-round draft pick for the 2008 N.B.A. draft.
“I hope he does go to the N.B.A.,” Calipari said. “Because you know what that means if he does? It means we won a ton of games this season, and I’d be fine with that.”
Whether he stays or goes, the 19-year-old Rose has plenty of support from his brothers.
“Before anyone like a street hustler or a dope dealer tried to take advantage of him, we had to protect him,” said Reggie Rose, 32. “But when we’re at home, we still make him take out the garbage and keep him humble. He knows he’s still the baby brother.”