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Simeon success

Rose, Wilson leave winning legacy behind in Chicago

Posted: Wednesday June 20, 2007 2:19PM; Updated: Wednesday June 20, 2007 2:19PM
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Martez Wilson (left) and Derrick Rose brought plenty of attention to Chicago's Simeon High during their careers.
Martez Wilson (left) and Derrick Rose brought plenty of attention to Chicago's Simeon High during their careers.
Ross Dettman/RISE

By Lucas O'Neill, Special to SI.com, RISE

Jordan/Pippen. Payton/Singletary. Wilson/Rose. OK, so technically basketball phenom Derrick Rose and football beast Martez Wilson aren't teammates. But the Simeon seniors are most definitely Chicago's latest, greatest dynamic duo.

Tops in the state in their respective sports, Rose and Wilson both wrapped up storied scholastic careers this year. But the story is far from over for the Windy City's finest.

Wilson is an athletic marvel. At 6-foot-4, 239 pounds, he has the size and ferociousness of a linebacker and the speed and soft hands of a wide receiver. Rated the nation's No. 21 recruit in the Class of 2007 by RISE, Wilson has signed to play for Illinois and coach Ron Zook next season. Rose is rated the nation's No. 5 hoop recruit in the Class of 2007, but no one would be surprised if the 6-3, 196-pound point guard turned out to be the most successful baller in his uber-talented class.

Rose doesn't have the entourage or hype machine that accompany some of his peers, but he is something to watch on the court. Smooth. Skilled. Explosive. A winner. Rose led Simeon to back-to-back Class AA state titles in his final two years, including this season when he helped the Wolverines finish No. 1 in the RISE National Basketball Top 25. His senior campaign was slightly bittersweet, however, as Rose relished the last of his court time with a group of seniors he had played with since sixth grade, including University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee recruits Tim Flowers and Kevin Johnson.

"It was awesome because we made history," says Rose. "This last season was real tough because we knew this was our last time playing with each other."

Rose averaged 21 points, eight dimes and seven boards per game but made sure the other seniors got their due in the state final against O'Fallon. Flowers dominated with 35 points and 14 rebounds, Johnson added 20 and seven, and Rose finished with just two points.

"When we were walking over from the hotel to the game, he said he was going to prove he was the best point guard in the nation," says Simeon basketball coach Robert Smith. "He was the best player on the floor and only scored two points."

Rose will head to Memphis next year, joining a team that made it to the Elite Eight last March. Smith believes Rose's arrival will put the Tigers in prime position to take it a step further and contend for a championship.

"I think with Derrick, Memphis gets to the Final Four, if not the national championship," Smith says. "He's going to be such an impact player to get those guys open and create for other people."

Wilson, on the other hand, heads to a school that hasn't been competitive in recent years. After catching 42 passes for 1,005 yards and nine touchdowns on offense his senior year and recording more than 200 career tackles in just two varsity seasons, the U.S. Army All-American had his pick of the finest football programs in the country before deciding to stay in state.

His decision to attend a school that's gone 4-19 and finished at the bottom of the Big Ten the last two seasons makes more sense than meets the eye.

First of all, it's close to home, an understandably desirable trait. There's also Zook, Florida's former coach who recruited most of the Gators' senior class that won a national championship in January.

With Illinois, Zook has signed a consensus Top 25 recruiting class for next season. Finally, Wilson is excited about the chance to show some Illinois pride and put the Illini back on the map. And now that he's made the choice, he's anxious to get started. "I can't wait," he says. "I've already been going to practice to try to learn the plays. I'm excited because I'm supposed to be helping change the program around. I just got to live up to that. I got to come in and be a factor."

Zook has little doubt he will. Hours before speaking with RISE, the coach was on the phone with former Florida quarterback Chris Leak talking up Wilson. Zook compares Wilson to NFL beast Jevon Kearse.

"Another big strong guy who can run and do a lot of things," Zook says. "He reminds me a lot of the way Jevon was coming out of high school."

Wilson will likely start off at linebacker for the Illini but could also be used at defensive end to get on the edge and rush. The possibility also remains that he could be a two-way player in college.

"We'll probably try to utilize him as much as he can handle," says Zook. "He could be an unbelievable tight end."

Not surprisingly, attention follows these blue-chip recruits everywhere they go. The friends have shared stories, and to a lesser extent advice, on handling notoriety and recruiting while balancing school. Rose, in particular, has been scoped, scouted and scrutinized for years. But the McDonald's All-American says keeping a low profile -- Rose has probably done the fewest interviews among the nation's top hoop prospects, while his brothers have handled the bulk of his recruiting -- has helped him keep his priorities in order.

"Other players, they really don't have nobody to watch over their recruitment and stuff like that," Rose says. "All the press can get to their head and mess up their game. But for me, it's different. [My brothers] have been helpful, just letting me be a kid."

One might expect a rivalry between these alpha dogs, but during football season, Rose and the basketball team attended almost every game. Wilson and the Simeon gridiron gang returned the favor this winter. "That's one thing with this school, we don't have an ego program," says Smith. "We just want our teams to win. All of them."

Rose and Wilson sure had a lot of success during their high school careers, and the Simeon community will be sad to see them go. But will the dynamic duo be sad to leave?

"I'm ready to go," Wilson says without a moment's hesitation, before adding: "Of course I'm going to miss it, though."