Derrick Rose eager for a Chicago homecoming

Interview and photos by Adam Fluck | Posted June 19, 2008

Becoming the potential face of the franchise for your hometown team would be a lot of added pressure for a 19-year old to handle.

Just don’t tell that to Derrick Rose—it’s a dream of his and it could very well come true on June 26.

Derrick Rose

"I thought LeBron James was the luckiest guy in the world to get to play in his home city," Rose said after visiting the Bulls for a private workout at the Berto Center on Thursday. "Now I have that chance. I'm just hoping that they pick me."

Rose won back-to-back state titles while attending Simeon Career Academy High School on Chicago’s South Side and nearly added a national championship to his resume when he led his Memphis Tigers to the NCAA Final Four as a freshman.

The self-described unselfish point guard went one-on-one with following his workout to talk about his days in the Public League, his impressions of John Paxson and Vinny Del Negro, and what it would mean to begin his pro career at home. How do you feel your workout went?
Derrick Rose: “I thought it went well. I wasn’t hitting my threes as consistently as I would have liked, but I was happy with my mid-range game and that’s something I’ve been working on. I know I’m not an outstanding three-point shooter right now, but at the same time I’m capable of knocking some shots down. I’m comfortable hitting shots off of picks and that’s a big part of the pro game.” Was there anything in particular that you tried to showcase?
Rose: “I just wanted to show them that I can shoot. Everyone says I can’t, but I think part of that is because I was more focused on getting my teammates the ball in college. I know shooting is something that I can improve on and if the Bulls pick me, I’ll do everything I can to do that. I’m getting as many shots up as I can every day and I’m focused.” Where have you be working out in preparation for the draft?
Rose: “I’ve been in L.A. all summer, working out with guys like [Russell] Westbrook, Brook and Robin Lopez, Martell Webster, Josh Shipp and a few others.” Some fans may not realize this, but you’ve already played in a game at the United Center, a televised contest in which Simeon dominated Washington in the 2007 Chicago Public League championship. What was that experience like for you?
Rose: “There was a lot of love in the United Center that night. It was pretty packed for a high school game and I guess I put on a little show with a few of my dunks. It felt so great playing there and that’s just another reason why I’d like to play there as a member of the Bulls. The crowd was amazing and they really got into it and people were excited to see us play. It was a great feeling.”

Derrick Rose How did playing in the Public League and winning back-to-back state titles prepare you for your freshman year at Memphis?
Rose: “It kind of got me used to playing on a big stage, which I love to do. Winning the championships gave us all a lot of great exposure with all the people who were at those games or read about us in the papers. We played a lot of big games, but the pressure never really got to me because I always felt I was in control of the game.

“At Memphis, the biggest game prior to the tournament was when we played Tennessee and that was one of the most hyped games I’ve ever played in. It felt like we were playing at an NBA-level, because so much was on the line and I learned a lot from that game. I stopped watching TV as much because the critics can get to you. I also realized that you have to be relaxed when you’re on the floor. Games like that helped prepare me for my future.” Talk about your decision to attend Memphis and what it was like playing for John Calipari.
Rose: “There were a lot of things. First, (Memphis Director of Student-Athlete Development) Rod Strickland played in the NBA and was a point guard who I think is among the top ten assist leaders of all time. Coach Calipari had coached in the NBA and the team had a lot of veterans there who I knew would ease the pressure on me coming in.

“My role was to prove to them that I was willing to do whatever it took to win. We worked hard to get where we did. Memphis was a great place for me though—they ran a system that suited my style of play and coach really liked to put the ball in my hands.” You recently said that you were glad that you couldn’t go pro right out of high school. How important was your one season of college ball?
Rose: “It was crucial. I thank God for it because I was nowhere near ready to go from high school to the league. I just wasn’t ready. But as last season went on, I knew I kept getting better. My IQ kept getting higher, we started to gel as a team, and I became more of a leader.” You really turned it on during your remarkable run in the NCAA Tournament. To what do you attribute your season-ending success?
Rose: “I’m just an extremely competitive person. Everyone was saying I was too young or that an older player was going to get the best of me because they were older, but age doesn’t always matter. It’s about being the better player. I just wanted to prove people wrong and show that I was the best player on the court.” Coach Calipari was quoted as saying, “He could have scored 30 a game for us if he wanted to, but he understood by scoring 14, we had a chance to win every game.” What’s your reaction to that statement?
Rose: “I was willing to do whatever the team needed me to do, whether it was rebounding or taking shots. Last year, they asked me to run the team and make plays when they needed me. We had a couple scorers on the team, so it was my job to get them the ball when they were open and create opportunities for them.” What are some of your top priorities over the next week or so?
Rose: “Of course I’m going to keep working on my shot, but I’ll also work on my all-around game and pick-and-rolls.”

Derrick Rose with Vinny Del Negro What are your thoughts on John Paxson and Vinny Del Negro now that you’ve spent some time with them?
Rose: “They’re very likeable people. Sometimes it takes me awhile to warm up to someone when I first meet them, but with them, you can tell they’re caring, very intelligent, and they know the game. They both played in the NBA, so they know what it takes. Defense is important to both of them, and from what I can tell, they’ve got some good offensive things that will be in place, too. They’ll be prepared for the season.” How do you feel about being compared to the likes of Jason Kidd, Chris Paul and Deron Williams?
Rose: “I hope I can be as good as any of those guys, but I’m Derrick Rose. I’m nowhere near where those guys are right now, but I’m going to work as hard as I can to live up to those comparisons. Those guys have done so much for their teams and I hope I can do that too for mine.” Have you thought about how you might fit in with the current Bulls roster?
Rose: “Some of the guys like Ben Gordon and Joakim Noah were in the gym watching my workout and I loved that. I hope I worked hard enough so they think I can play with them and that I deserve to be in this position. It’s not my first time around the block, so I think I’ll be ready. I’ve met a few of them before and there’s never been any attitude from them at all; they’re low-key guys.” What was your reaction when you saw the Bulls beat the odds and won the NBA Draft Lottery?
Rose: “I still can’t believe it. I remember my brother, Alan, used to always tell me I’d play for the Bulls someday. I told him I hoped he was right, but now that I might have that chance, it’s amazing. I think back to all the times people have told me I was good enough to play for the Bulls, and now it could come true. I’d love to play here. I know the whole city would be behind me and it’s such a great sports city. The Bulls have a lot of talent and they’re young, too. I think if I’m lucky enough to come to this team, we’ll do some damage.”