Originally published March 2, 2007
It began small, just a whisper between city basketball aficionados that eventually rose into screams of excitement and hype before he even played a high school game.
”I’ve heard about this kid on the South Side named Derrick Rose.”
The elementary school coaches noticed him first, as he led Beasley to two city titles.
”When I first saw him play, he was in sixth grade and I was the coach at Dyett Elementary,” Simeon coach Robert Smith said. ”I actually thought this other player was better because he was scoring all the points. Bobby Tribble was sitting with me, and he pointed at Derrick and said he was the best player in the building.
”Derrick beat us the next two years, and when I got to Simeon I knew he was a player this program had to have.”
Rose, with Smith as his coach, led Simeon to the sophomore city title his freshman year.
By that time, the public was hungry to see if the boy legend was for real.
A full page of the newspaper was devoted to Rose’s first varsity basketball game.
More than 3,000 fans crammed into the gym on Dec. 4, 2004, standing in every available spot, hoping to get a look at the most highly-touted Chicago player since King’s Jamie Brandon.
”It was scary,” Rose said. ”I’m not gonna lie. I was scared.”
That afternoon, Rose lived up to the almost unbelievable hype. The 6-3 guard had 22 points, seven rebounds and five steals in a win over Thornwood.
After the game, Smith summed it up: ”This is pressure some adults can’t handle.”
Over the next three seasons, as he led Simeon to state and city titles, Rose convinced scouts and media that he was one of the best players in the country. The comparisons switched from Brandon to Isiah Thomas, the gold standard of Illinois players.
Rose, the Sun-Times Player of the Year, isn’t a typical prep star. His game is built around winning, not scoring points. Rose has never pulled up for an NBA-length three-pointer just because he was hot. He wouldn’t pass up an open teammate on a fast break to pad his stats.
It’s an understated style that recalls the grace and selflessness of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, not the score-first mentality of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.
”If there is one word that can sum up Rose’s career, it is unselfishness,” Roy Schmidt of Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye Report said. ”What’s ironic is that his unselfishness was the subject of much scrutiny and criticism. But when it is all said and done, that will define his greatness at the college and professional level.”
Rose developed his style at Murray Park, on West 73rd between Ashland and Damen.
”The way I play is because of my brother Allan,” Rose said. “Dwayne and Reggie [the other Rose brothers] had to work more, so it was usually me and Allan and his friends; I was 13, and they were 19 and 20. When you’re playing with older kids, you don’t want to shoot all the time.”
Rose’s first heroic varsity moment came in his sophomore season at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament.
While leaping for an inbounds pass in the final minutes of a semifinal game against Warren, he tweaked his right ankle — the ankle that has become his Achilles’ heel.
With three seconds to play in a tied game, he limped to the free-throw line and made one of two free throws, then fell to the ground in pain. His teammates carried him off the floor.
Rose’s sophomore season ended in the sectional finals. The Wolverines lost to Bobby Frasor and Brother Rice in double overtime.
”That was the most painful loss of my career,” Rose said. ”I fouled out, Tim [Flowers] fouled out, Frasor fouled out, and they just started hitting shots from everywhere. It was like a movie.”
Rose’s junior season was nearly flawless. He led Simeon to the Pontiac Holiday Tournament title, the city title and the state title.
Against Washington in the city title game, Rose delivered 20 seconds of basketball that will live on forever in YouTube basketball history.
In the third quarter, Rose had a steal and a windmill jam, rocking the United Center with a combination of elevation, speed and force. Ten seconds later, he stole the ball again and headed for another fast-break dunk. This time, Washington star Mario Little, bigger and stronger than Rose, tried to contest the jam. It was a futile effort, as Rose victimized Little with a poster-quality dunk.
In the state quarterfinals, the Wolverines faced Glenbrook North, the defending Class AA state champions.
The matchup, billed as Rose vs. Jon Scheyer, was one of the most-hyped games in the state history. The Wolverines won the game, which ended up being a dud. It did have symbolic value as a passing of the torch from Scheyer and Glenbrook North to Rose and Simeon.
Rose’s crowning high school achievement came the next day in the state finals.
With 1.6 seconds to play in overtime of a tied game with Peoria Richwoods, Rose drove the lane and drained a jumper as time expired to give Simeon a 31-29 triumph for the state title.
Simeon received a police escort back into the city and enjoyed a heroes’ welcome on the South Side.
”This weekend was the beginning of the legend of Derrick Rose,” former Simeon coach Bob Hambric said.
This past summer, Rose had an epic showdown with O.J. Mayo, long considered the top player in the class of 2007. The two guards locked horns in a club basketball game at the Big Time Tournament in Las Vegas. Mayo converted a four-point play with 2.9 seconds to play to give his team the win, but Rose posted a triple-double (21 points, 14 rebounds, 12 assists).
”Rose is going to be an All-American in college and an NBA All-Star after that,” Sonny Vaccaro said after the game. ”He’s one of the greats to ever play in Illinois.”
By the start of this season, the national excitement surrounding Rose reached a fever pitch. Simeon’s schedule reflected Rose’s stardom, with games at Madison Square Garden and on ESPN.
Rose delivered in both national showcases. Although Simeon lost to Rice (N.Y.) at the Garden, Rose played well.
The game against Oak Hill at the UIC Pavilion, the first high school game ever televised by ESPN, will be remembered as one of the landmark moments in Chicago basketball history.
The Wolverines defeated the Warriors, ranked No. 1 in the country by USA Today. Oak Hill was 22-0 and featured seven high-major Division I players.
Rose finished with 28 points, nine assists and eight rebounds. The performance elevated him into contention for national player of the year honors.
Rose is the fourth Simeon player of the year, following Nick Anderson (1985), Deon Thomas (1989) and Calvin Brock (2004).
”[The Player of the Year awards] are because of discipline,” Rose said. ”That’s why I came to Simeon. You don’t see that in other programs. It’s the coaching staff and the school.
”Since I saw Calvin win player of the year when I was a freshman, I knew it was how I wanted to end my career.”
DERRICK ROSE’S SIGNATURE PERFORMANCES
The Debut — Dec. 4, 2004 vs. Thornwood
– As a sophomore, totaled 22 points, seven rebounds and five steals in his first varsity game.
The Injured Hero — Dec. 29, 2004 vs. Warren
– After spraining his right ankle, he limped to the free-throw line and made one of two free throws to give the Wolverines the victory. His teammates carried him off the floor.
The First City Title — Feb. 26, 2006 vs. Washington
– Delivered 25 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and two of the most memorable dunks seen at the United Center since Michael Jordan retired.
The Shot — March 18, 2006 vs. Peoria Richwoods
– With 1.6 seconds to play in overtime and the state-championship game tied, he drove the lane, elevated and nailed a jumper as time expired, giving Simeon the state title.
The Garden — Jan. 14, 2007 vs. Rice (N.Y.)
– Put on a show with 26 points as Simeon became the first Illinois high school team to play at Madison Square Garden.
The Upset — Jan. 18, 2007 vs. Oak Hill
– Had 28 points, nine assists and eight rebounds to lead Simeon over undefeated Oak Hill, the top-ranked team in the nation in the first high school game ever televised by ESPN.
The War of Words — Feb. 17, 2007 vs. St. Joseph
– Battled St. Joseph star Evan Turner on and off the court. Both players scored 29 points. Turner: “I was better than Rose.” Rose: “He’s just saying that to get publicity.”
The Second City Title — Feb. 24, 2007 vs. Washington
– Finished with 14 points and nine assists as his alley-oop jam put the exclamation point on the Wolverines’ second consecutive city title.
2007 Chicago Sun-Times All-Area Team
Thornwood, 6-3 senior guard
Led Thunderbirds to fourth-place finish in 2006 Class AA state finals. One of the best shooters in the state. Averaging 12.3 points while shooting 52 percent with five rebounds and four assists per game.
Glenbard East, 6-7 senior forward
Signed with Northwestern. Averaging 18.2 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 3.2 steals per game. Shooting 51 percent from the field and 71 percent from the free-throw line for DuPage Valley champs.
Warren, 6-2 senior guard
Signed with Western Illinois. One of the top point guards in the state. First-team all-tournament choice at Pontiac. Averaging 12 points, eight assists and five rebounds for North Suburban champions.
Farragut, 6-10 junior center
Smart, strong player who is developing into one of the top big men in the nation. Led Farragut to Red-West title and the Final Four of the Public League playoffs. Averaging 17 points and 12 rebounds.
Thornton, 6-4 senior guard
Signed with Virginia. Strong, confident guard and a deadly three-point shooter who is averaging 17 points per game. Expanded his overall floor game this season. An all-tournament pick at Rich South.
Simeon, 6-5 senior center
Signed with Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The dominant post player in the state for two seasons. Teamed with Derrick Rose to win two city titles and one state title. Averaging 18 points and 14 rebounds.
Batavia, 6-6 junior forward
The top-scoring junior in the area. Averaging 20.5 points, eight rebounds and 3.3 assists. Will be one of the area’s top recruits next season. Led Bulldogs to the Western Sun title.
Marshall, 6-3 junior forward
Led the Commandos’ balanced attack, averaging 14 points. Considered one of the top five juniors in the state. Great rebounder and shooter. A three-year starter for coach Lamont Bryant.
Loyola, 6-2 senior guard
His leadership and creativity as a point guard elevated the Ramblers to elite status in the state. Catholic League’s Lawless Award winner, averaging 13.5 points, 4.5 assists and two steals.
Washington, 6-6 junior guard
Generally regarded as one of top two juniors in the state. Led Washington to Red-East title and city championship game. Averaging 14 points, 10 assists, six rebounds and five steals.
St. Patrick, 6-0 senior guard
Signed with Bradley. Averaging 20.3 points while leading the Shamrocks to a 19-6 record. Named as a first-team all-tournament selection at Proviso West.
St. Joseph, 6-3 senior guard
Signed with Illinois. Combined with Evan Turner to lead Chargers to East Suburban Catholic and Proviso West tournament titles. Averaging 14.5 points, seven assists and five rebounds.
Conant, 6-4 senior forward
Rose from obscurity with a fabulous season for the Mid-Suburban League champions. Averaging 16 points and eight rebounds. Terrific three-point shooter. Shot 77 percent from free-throw line.
Proviso East, 6-0 senior guard
Signed with Kansas State. One of the top players in the state the last two seasons. Averaging 22 points, five assists and three steals. A leader and a force on the defensive end.
T.F. North, 6-1 senior guard
Multi-faceted scorer. A dangerous three-point shooter who can also drive to the basket. Helped lead Meteors to SICA East title. Averaging 21 points per game. All-tourney pick at Proviso West.
Simeon, 6-3 senior guard
Signed with Memphis. Named to the McDonald’s All-American team. Considered one of the top three seniors in the nation. Led Simeon to two city titles and the Class AA state title in 2006.
Oak Park, 6-3 junior guard
First-team all-tournament at Pontiac. Averaging 17 points. One of the most highly recruited players in the junior class. Led the Huskies to the West Suburban Silver title.
Lincoln Park, 5-10 senior guard
Signed with Northwestern. Respected for leadership and skills. First-team All-Public League. Averaging 16 points and eight rebounds. Led his team to the Big Dipper championship.
St. Joseph, 6-6 senior forward
Signed with Ohio State. Considered the state’s second-best senior prospect. Averaging 22 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks per game. MVP at Proviso West.
T.F. North, 6-7 senior center
Amazing leaper. His presence helped coach Tim Bankston create an elite program in Calumet City. Averaged 18 points and 12 rebounds for the SICA East champions. All-tournament at Proviso West.