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Derrick Rose’s Leap from Inner-City Baller to the NBA

THE AIR UP THERE: His story starts in Englewood, one of Chicago’s most dangerous neighborhoods, where, as an athletic prodigy, he was shielded from harm

(page 3 of 4)


Derrick Rose at Simeon

All around him, though, people were dying. When Rose was a fifth grader living on 73rd and Paulina, his next-door neighbor, a teenager, got drunk and killed himself playing Russian roulette. A close neighborhood friend of Rose’s was killed a few weeks before he was supposed to leave for college. Every day in Englewood, Rose says, he saw or heard some element of a crime. “When I was younger, I used to cry about how rough it was,” he recalls. “I just wanted to be old enough to get me and my family out of there.”

During the eighth grade, when it was time for Rose to choose where he wanted to go to high school, the neighborhood’s protective code played a huge part in his decision to enroll at Simeon, about two miles from his home. “I had heard too many stories about people who go too far out of their neighborhood, where people try to test you,” Rose said. “Simeon was in my neighborhood, and I had friends there, so I felt pretty safe.” He led Simeon to two state titles, and the recruiters who’d been knocking for years began pounding. “People told him that he’d never get out of Englewood,” says John Calipari, Rose’s coach at the University of Memphis. “And he became the best player in the country.” In his freshman year, he led the Tigers to the 2008 national title game, where they lost to Kansas. A week later, he announced he was leaving college for the NBA.

Photograph: Abel Uribe/Chicago Tribune photo

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