Chicago has a
history of devouring its young basketball stars. Ben Wilson was the No.
1--ranked high school senior in the country in 1984--" Magic Johnson, but
with a jump shot," said former NBA standout Nick Anderson--but just before
his final season Wilson was shot and killed while on his school lunch break.
Ronnie Fields was a victim by different means. Illinois's Mr. Basketball in
1996 was a year behind Kevin Garnett at Farragut Academy and with his 40-inch
vertical leap seemed destined to meet Garnett in the NBA. But street agents and
other poachers moved in, and he made one bad decision after another until his
career finally dwindled away in basketball's minor leagues.
Derrick Rose, who has heard the cautionary tales of Wilson, Fields and some of
Chicago's other lost hoops prodigies, could easily have fallen too. Derrick was
brought up in a single-parent home in one of the worst neighborhoods in
Chicago, and agents and their middlemen were chasing him before he was in high
school. Yet Derrick is thriving, a top five player in the class of 2007, a
6'3" guard who might be the best player to come out of Chicago in a
He is the leader
of the Simeon Career Academy basketball team, which is a defending state
champion and seventh in SI's preseason national rankings (page 67). So why did
Derrick blossom when so many others withered?
The answer was
standing in the back of the room a few weeks ago when Derrick announced his
decision to play next season for the University of Memphis. Derrick's older
brothers--Dwayne, Reggie and Allan--built a wall around him the day they
realized he had a special talent. They took control of every facet of his life,
monitoring his friends, his schoolwork, even his coaches, in a manner that some
find extreme. They have been accused of taking over the basketball program at
Simeon and, even worse, of "pimping" him for their own gain. Their
response to such criticism is a shrug. They know that when your brother is a
basketball prodigy on Chicago's South Side, you can't trust the village to
raise him. Not when the village is a big part of the problem. "People
haven't liked some of what we've done," says Reggie, "but when it's
your brother, you don't care what other people think."
section of Chicago has a violent past and a violent present. In the 19th
century it was home to serial killer H.H. Holmes, whose exploits were
chronicled in Erik Larson's best seller The Devil in the White City. In 1998
the neighborhood made national headlines when two seven- and eight-year-old
boys were falsely charged with murdering an 11-year-old girl. In 2003, after a
seven-year-old girl was shot, a teacher at Englewood High had his students
write letters to a Chicago Sun-Times columnist. "I have seen people get
shot, stabbed and beat to death right before my eyes," wrote a student
named Patrice. Another, Shanika, wrote, "The bad boys and girls are taking
A single mother
raising children in Englewood has to contend with gangs, gutted schools and
overwhelming poverty. Yet Brenda Rose reared her first three sons there without
serious incident. All attended college, and each holds a steady job. Dwayne,
34, works at a shipping company; Reggie, 31, is a machine operator for Pepsi;
Allan, 26, delivers computers. "My mom would walk down the street and drag
us home if she heard we were getting into trouble," Dwayne says. "Even
the drug dealers, when they saw her coming, would stop dealing and tell her
where we were."
wisest bit of parenting might have come later, when strangers began calling the
house, expressing interest in her youngest son, Derrick. When Brenda looked at
her son, she saw a child, but those who knew basketball saw a rare package of
abilities. With a basketball in his hands, Derrick could be explosive and
efficient at the same time, blowing past defenders but never forcing the
action. "His main asset is his strength," says Chris Monter, an NBA
draft analyst. "He has the quickness and the leaping ability you want in a
guard, but he really knows how to overpower other guards. A lot of people think
he is a one and done player." In other words, he'll be in the NBA following
his freshman year of college ball.
Class AA state finals victory last season, people marveled at how Derrick
dominated the game--which he did--but few realized that he had scored only nine
points. "He doesn't have to score to take over a game," Reggie
At a Las Vegas
tournament in July, Derrick had 21 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists in a
matchup with O.J. Mayo, widely considered the best guard in the class of '07.
But that wasn't Derrick's most impressive performance of the summer. A month
earlier, after he'd injured his right (shooting) hand in a fall, he played a
game using only his left and still scored 12 points.
skilled and tough and, from about eighth grade, a marked kid. Brenda saw the
onslaught coming and knew what to do. "His brothers knew basketball, I
didn't," she says. "I told them to handle it."
and Allan quickly formed a fatherly triune that, in their words, "smothered
him." One of them always picked him up and dropped him off at school. At
least one attended his practices and games. If he needed new shoes or clothes
or if he acted out and needed to be punished, more often than not one of the
brothers handled it. "We'd do good cop, bad cop on him all the time,"
Reggie says. They monitored the people he came into contact with, those who
called the house or stopped him in the neighborhood for a chat. If he went
somewhere when none of the brothers were free, "we'd have someone we
trusted go and spy on him," Reggie says.