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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Rose fitting more assists into his game


Rose fitting more assists into his game
Tigers' standout freshman guard backs off shots in favor of passing
By Dan Wolken
Friday, November 30, 2007

He had thrown down ferocious tip-dunks, scored lay-ups in traffic from his hip and pulled off circus shots that practically made Dick Vitale choke on his microphone.

But for the first five games of Derrick Rose's college career, he had not exactly been the spectacularly unselfish, pass-first point guard that was advertised to University of Memphis fans for more than a year.

"At first, when I went to the hole," Rose said, "I was just thinking about scoring or the (alley-) oop."

As Rose becomes more familiar with Memphis' offense and his teammates, however, the Tigers are seeing his range of skills grow each day. Consider Tuesday night's 104-82 victory over Austin Peay.

For the first time since he came to Memphis, Rose didn't attack the rim thinking primarily about scoring. He didn't have to. With a better feel for the game than he possessed two weeks ago, Rose finally became the facilitator. Though he still scored 19 points in 23 minutes, what stood out most were his 12 assists, seven more than his previous high.

But even at that, Rose did it so fluidly and blended in so seamlessly that coach John Calipari couldn't process the breadth of his performance until he looked at a box score.

"I thought he had like 12 (points) and six (assists), and that's fine," Calipari said. "And then I look, and it's 19 and 12 in 23 minutes with one turnover that he ended up stealing it back."

Rose's effort also signaled another step in the evolution of Memphis' offense, which looked disjointed for the first two weeks of the season. Even in the Tigers' 81-70 win over Connecticut at Madison Square Garden -- where they will return on Tuesday to face No. 22 USC in the Jimmy V Classic -- it was the ability of Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts to score off the dribble rather than an entire offensive unit completely in sync.

But the Tigers were practically unstoppable against Austin Peay, making 43-of-67 field goals overall and 34-of-43 from inside the 3-point line -- an astounding 79.1 percent.

Much of the credit for that should go to Rose, who helped create easy looks for his teammates whenever he was on the floor.

"He wanted to get his assists up," said Douglas-Roberts, who went 11-for-15 in the game. "That's what he said, and that's what he did. He can average 12 assists."

That might be a lot to ask, given that assist numbers are completely reliant on whether the pass catcher can score a basket. Then again, almost all of Rose's 12 assists were scored on easy looks.

"When you go back over the tape, he made about six passes that he could have shot the ball and gave guys lay-ups," Calipari said. "They were legitimately 12 assists. It wasn't passing and a guy makes a jumper. He wasn't in there when guys were making jumpers. He created good shots for his teammates."

Rose admitted he wasn't doing that as much early, but it certainly wasn't because of a selfish streak. In the preseason, Calipari drilled Rose to be aggressive and look for his shot, perhaps overemphasizing the point because of Rose's reputation and his learning curve. The only problem was that Rose, especially in the Tigers' victory over Oklahoma, became a little too aggressive, forcing shots he didn't have.

Over the past two weeks, Rose has found a better balance and comfort level within the offense.

"Now I'm going to the hole, and if the (alley-)oop isn't there, maybe somebody's cheating over and I'm passing it to the open man," Rose said. "I'm just feeling the offense a little bit better, so that's why the assists went up a little bit. Hopefully it keeps going up."

Reach Dan Wolken at 529-2365; read his blogs on the Tigers at thememphisedge.com.

Next for No. 3 Tigers

Opponent: No. 22 USC

When, where: 8:30 p.m. CST Tuesday at Madison Square Garden, New York

TV: ESPN

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