SI Vault
 
The Well-Guarded Guard
George Dohrmann
November 27, 2006
It took three very tough and determined brothers to foster the talents of a young Derrick Rose and protect him from a miasma of Chicago gangs, dealers, hangers-on and, perhaps scariest of all, agents
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
November 27, 2006

The Well-guarded Guard

It took three very tough and determined brothers to foster the talents of a young Derrick Rose and protect him from a miasma of Chicago gangs, dealers, hangers-on and, perhaps scariest of all, agents

View CoverRead All Articles
1 2 3 4

Early on they found it fairly easy to keep people away. But "then he got to high school, and everyone started to notice him," Dwayne says. "That's when things really picked up."

There are three murals in the Farragut Academy gym. Two are of Garnett; the other depicts Ronnie Fields soaring for a dunk: RONNIE FIELDS AIR SHOW, 1992--96, it reads, and then his accomplishments are listed, including 372 dunks.

There are many theories for why Fields never made it, but the soundest one is this: His family provided him with little protection--his mother was 15 when he was born--so street agents and others took over. "They look for kids who don't have a support system, and then they come heavy," William Nelson, Fields's coach at Farragut, says of the poachers.

Imagine then the trepidation the brothers felt when some of the same people who had preyed on Fields cast their covetous gazes on Derrick after he led Simeon's freshman team to a city championship. Almost overnight the AAU team that Derrick had played on since the sixth grade took on a new look. "All of these people got put on staff, and I couldn't understand where they came from," Reggie says.

His response was to create his own AAU team and take nine of Derrick's 14 AAU teammates with him. That angered some parents and coaches the brothers had known for years, but Reggie believes it was the right move. "People were just beginning to really look at how they could make money off Derrick," he says. "If we hadn't kept those people away, he could have ended up like Ronnie Fields."

The better Derrick played, the more people pushed to get close to him. Once, Derrick's cellphone number got out, and in a 24-hour period he received nearly 40 text messages and more than 60 calls from strangers. "There was a message from this [AAU] coach from California trying to get me to play for him," Derrick recalls, "and someone from down south saying he'd help my family move so I could go to school there."

Derrick got a new number, and the brothers quickly instituted a policy: No one but family could get through to Derrick without going through Reggie. "When people asked Derrick for his number, he would just give them mine," Reggie says. "Then they'd call and I'd ask, 'So, what do you want with Derrick?'" The brothers got so good at "smothering" Derrick that agents accused them of exploiting him. "They'd say we were looking to make money off our brother," Reggie recalls. "I told them, 'No one is going to pimp Derrick. But if anybody is going to pimp him, it's going to be his family.'"

Fans of various colleges waited in front of Reggie's house, hoping for the chance to urge him to have Derrick pick their school. Big-name agents regularly called Reggie to say they were flying into Chicago and were willing to meet with him. Random men would approach Dwayne and ask him, "What kind of car does Derrick drive?" A question that was far from innocent, implying that there were people willing to give Derrick and his brothers gifts that would be anything but free.

"It's been crazy," Dwayne says, "but it's been crazy for us, not for Derrick."

Ben Wilson's death shook Chicago, and the Reverend Jesse Jackson and Mayor Harold Washington used Wilson (and the two teenagers who killed him) to show that the city had failed its children. "We have not heard their screams in the night," Washington said. He promised change, but have the screams stopped?

Continue Story
1 2 3 4