After spending a day in Indianapolis, the Road Show worked its way back through Illinois en route to Chicago for a return flight to Kansas City. With just enough to time to pop in on a few games at any of several post Christmas tournaments along the way back to Chicago, the 74th annual Pontiac Holiday Basketball tournament at Pontiac (IL) High seemed like just as good a place as any.
Actually, there was one particularly good reason for checking in on the Pontiac tournament and his name, Derrick Rose, is one that fans of every prominent basketball program in the country are going to become very familiar with over the next few years, if they aren’t already.
ROSE SHOWS FLASHES OF BRILLIANCE
In a city with as rich a basketball tradition as Chicago has, it is bound to happen. Every couple of years some kid is labeled as the next big thing and is all too often praised, then dissected, chewed up and spit back out. However, it has been a while since any player has received as much hype as Derrick Rose has. Only a sophomore, the 6-3 PG from Chicago (IL) Simeon has already been labeled as the best guard prospect the city has produced since Isaiah Thomas balled at Westchester (IL) St. Joseph’s in the late 70’s.
Just living up to that comparison alone is going to be trouble enough for Rose. But, when you couple that with the already rampant speculation that he’ll never see a college court it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this is a kid who will be subjected to a ridiculous amount of scrutiny over the next few years.
Playing against Warren Township, it didn’t take long for Rose to show that he was operating with a completely different deck of cards than any other player on the court. He’s got a muscular build, mature demeanor, plays hard and despite his young age is already blessed with absolutely breathtaking athleticism.
As easy as it could be for him to rely on his athleticism, Rose isn’t just an athlete with no skill. He’s a skillful ball-handler who breaks defenders down with a quick and very low to the ground crossover in either direction. He’s also got a nice hesitation move but his bread and butter is that deadly crossover. After he beats defenders off the bounce he throws clever passes or finds ways to score. Basically, he makes his teammates better on a consistent basis.
Right now his bread and butter move is to go baseline and elevate for floaters that he finishes off of the glass. He did take a few jumpers and his stroke looks pretty good -- except for a tendency to yank his head back a la Vinnie Johnson -- but the few jumpers he attempted rimmed out. He also needs to take better care of the ball. He is usually on the money with his passes but puts a lot of steam on them and often catches teammates off guard.
It’s a shame that Simeon spends so much time sitting back in their 2-3 zone defense, because Rose has the potential to be great on that end. He uses his quickness to anticipate passes, has quick hands that poke the ball away from offensive players and he already moves his feet very well. Perhaps the most impressive play he made all day was getting into a passing lane, making a steal and taking off down the court to explode off his left foot for a two handed dunk where he had his eyes almost at rim level.
On the game Rose finished with 14 points, five rebounds and three steals, not overwhelming but good for a freshman. However, what was most impressive is his incredible toughness. After being fouled with just 3.7 seconds to go in a tie ballgame, Rose rolled around near mid-court in obvious pain as he clutched at his left ankle. After writhing in pain for a moment, Rose hobbled to the line and made the second of two free throws to secure a Simeon victory before he was carried to the sidelines, and ultimately into the locker by a pair of teammates. No matter how you slice it, that is some pretty salty stuff from a 16 year old.
Clearly, Rose has the potential to be one of the premier guards in the class of 2007 on a national level. However, he’s still got a lot to work on and sometimes he makes the game much harder on himself than he really needs to. Athleticism is a wonderful thing, but he needs to learn that the simple play is just as effective as the spectacular one and has a much higher chance at success.
The most interesting thing to watch will be how he deals with the hype machine that is already building around him. Frankly, any serious talk about him potentially skipping college for the NBA is putting the cart well ahead of the horse and is also unfair to Rose as a kid and prospect. Could it happen down the road? You never know, but Rose isn’t even the best guard in his class -- O.J. Mayo has that honor -- and it is way too early to talk about that kind of stuff.
Here’s hoping that he’s given a chance to grow some more as a player and kid before things around him get too crazy because in today’s high school basketball environment the hype and speculation is going to be unavoidable. For the time being though, people should focus on enjoying his talents and discussing him as the potentially elite level college prospect that he is.
- Total games seen- 100
- Total teams seen- 68
- Total miles traveled- 8,156