Wisch: The One Thing I Don’t Like About Derrick Rose

By Dave Wischnowsky-

(CBS) For seven years during my 20s, I covered high school sports.

During that span, I saw more prep basketball games than Wilt Chamberlain saw women (seemed like it, at least), as I watched hundreds of Illinois teens shoot hoops inside cavernous big-city arenas, as well as crackerbox gyms tucked in towns where many of you probably didn’t even know there was a high school.

Or a town.

Most of the players I saw were mediocre. Some were good. And a few were even great. But only one of them was Derrick Rose.

Back in December 2004, I saw the future Chicago Bulls superstar for the first time when he was just a high school sophomore playing in a holiday tournament in Downstate Pontiac. On that evening, the wiry point guard from Chicago Simeon was as raw as could be — Rose committed eight turnovers in the game — but he also flashed athletic gifts beyond belief.

And pulled off a dunk even more unbelievable.

During the game, while on a one-on-one fast break with a smaller defender attached to his hip the entire way, Rose sprinted the length of the court and appeared as if he’d go in for a contested layup – perhaps a difficult one-handed dunk. Instead, however, as Rose came within just a few feet of the hoop, he suddenly erupted off the floor for the most unexpected two-handed slam that I’ve ever seen.

In fact, so startled was the crowd at Pontiac High School that the entire gymnasium audibly gasped in unison.

I’ll never forget that sound.

And I’ve been a Derrick Rose fan ever since I exhaled.

I think the kid is the most athletic – and perhaps humble – point guard to ever play basketball. I think he’s probably the best individual thing to happen to the Chicago sports scene since Michael Jordan soared into town a generation ago. And I think he’s going to win the Bulls an NBA championship sooner rather than later (although, I suspect he’ll win some later, too).

Like the rest of the Windy City, I think Derrick Rose is great. But there also is something about him that I don’t like. And that’s how his national basketball story began at the University of Memphis, as well as how his legend was portrayed locally last week after Rose signed a five-year, $94.8 million contract extension with the Bulls.

During the press conference announcing that mega-deal, the 23-year-old who escaped Chicago’s violence-plagued Englewood neighborhood to become MVP of the NBA looked toward his mother, Brenda, and said, “I think I can finally say this now: Mom, we finally made it.”

The next day in the newspaper, Chicago Tribune columnist David Haugh wrote about that exchange: “Somewhere, the most cynical NBA fan wiped an eye and a Hollywood director yelled, “CUT!” This was the satisfying scene every doting son in America could appreciate whether he’s a weekend warrior or league MVP, the chance to take care of Mom after years of sacrifice no longer necessary.”

Now, as a son myself, I certainly can appreciate those sentiments. And as a former Tribune Metro reporter who’s been to Englewood at midnight after a young girl was killed in a drive-by shooting (not my most enjoyable assignment), I also have a deep appreciation of exactly where it is that Derrick Rose comes from.

But, truth is, I didn’t wipe a tear from eye when I heard Rose’s “Mom, we finally made it” comment. Rather, it furrowed my brow a bit. And the following day when I read all of the media accounts fawning over that statement, I found myself with a full-blown frown.

That’s because while Rose has indeed now “made it,” what seems to have been completely glossed over in the hubbub is that his hoop dreams were launched on an enormous lie which grew into an ugly cheating scandal that shouldn’t be used as an example for any kids to follow – no matter what kind of neighborhood they grew up in.

What wasn’t at all mentioned last week was the fact that on Aug. 20, 2009, the NCAA Committee on Infractions determined that Rose had been academically ineligible during his electric freshman season at Memphis, a decision that forced the school to vacate its record 38 wins and 2008 Final Four appearance.

In its report, the NCAA accused an unnamed Memphis player, whose description matched only Rose, of having another person take his SAT so he would qualify to play at Memphis. According to the report, the player failed the ACT on three occasions in Chicago before he was credited with a qualifying SAT score for a test that was taken in Detroit.

The NCAA reported that it attempted to contact the player twice to attain proof that he took the exam in Detroit, but he didn’t respond. During the first week of August 2009, Rose said that the allegations were false, saying, “I know I took the test.”

After the official ruling stripped Memphis of its ’08 season, Rose issued a statement through his attorney that said: “It is satisfying to see that the NCAA could find no wrongdoing on my part in their ruling. It is important for people to understand that I complied of everything that was asked of me while at the university, including my full cooperation in the university’s investigation of this issue, and was ultimately cleared to play in the entire 2007-08 season by the NCAA Clearinghouse and the university. I look forward to putting this behind me.”

With an MVP award on his mantle and monster paychecks pouring into his bank account, the issue certainly is behind Rose today. But that doesn’t mean it should also just be forgotten – particularly when just this month 20 current and former high school students in Nassau County, N.Y., were criminally charged with cheating on their college entrance exams.

According to the authorities, five test-takers used bogus school IDs to take the ACT or SAT for 15 students who paid them $500 to $3,600 apiece. The alleged test-takers have been hit with felony fraud charges, while those accused of paying them face misdemeanors.

Now, I’m not saying that those students were necessarily encouraged by Derrick Rose to cheat on their tests to help further their futures, but let’s just say that they certainly weren’t deterred by his past actions, either.

Yet, in the legend of “Rose’s Road to $94.8 Million” that was told around town last week, you heard nary a peep about the details that actually surrounded the start of his lucrative basketball journey.

Instead, you simply heard that Rose “made it.”

Again, I think Derrick Rose is great and I love watching him play, but I do long for a day when both the media and the public do a better job of balancing the myths and the realities of the men who play and coach the sports we love. After all, with just the Jim Tressel and Joe Paterno sagas this past year, we’ve seen enough examples of the folly of sports idolatry to last a lifetime. It would be great if we could start keeping a more balanced perspective in 2012.

Last week, however, the Sun-Times’ Rick Morrissey helped close this year by noting in his column that, “The most rousing part of the pregame introductions at Bulls home games is when public-address announcer Tommy Edwards says, ‘From Chicago, 6-3, a guard …’ Not, ‘From the University of Memphis …’”

Morrissey added “that distinction was made at Rose’s behest.”  And while the decision no doubt did involve a great deal of Chicago pride, it’s incredibly silly to just ignore that it was likely made due to a healthy measure of Memphis shame, as well.

Again, by all means, let’s celebrate Derrick Rose for all his greatness, everything he’s accomplished and where he’s come from. But when we’re telling that story, I’m just saying, let’s not forget to also remember how he got started, too.

Because, this is basketball. Not a fairy tale.

If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Follow him on Twitter @wischlist and read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.

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  • J-Dubya

    It is ridiculous that he could be one & done anyway.

    Players should have to be 2 years out of high school like football, or be able to go right out of high school. One & done makes it too easy to cheat. Do you think that he actually went to class at Memphis? What difference would it make? He was done with it during March anyway.

    I hat to admit it, but one of the big losers in this ordeal is Calipari. He is not someone to feel sorry for, but how was he supposed to know that D Rose didn’t take his own SAT? Yet he is branded a cheater at Memphis because of this.

    My point is that his actions impacted a lot of people.

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      J-Dubya, I personally don’t at all think that Rose should have had to go to college. I’ve always maintained the opinion that a basketball player should be able to go pro straight from high school. BUT, if he does enroll at a university, he should have to spend at least two years there until he’s eligible to enter the draft.

      Much like how it works for baseball players, who can go pro right out of high school. But if they do enroll at a school, he has to stay there for three seasons or until he turns 21, whichever comes first. Asking all basketball players to stay three years is too much, but it’s ridiculous to have them only go for one year.

      Now, all that said, the rules are what they are. And Derrick Rose — and John Calipari — scammed them big-time and both got off scot-free. As for Cal, well, I have a different take on that. I don’t think anything happens in Cal’s program and with his recruits’ eligibility that Cal doesn’t know about.

  • AT3374

    Not that what he did was right , but Derrick had no intention of going to school anyways , it’s just the NBA trying to steam the tide of high schoolers hitting the NBA to soon . Some high schoolers can make it ( Kobe , Garnett ) others can’t . He did wrong a long time ago , we need to move on from this story . Either you like the guy or not , enough with this .

  • BennyTheBull

    So what the hell is your point? Really? The topic was covered and discussed non-stop when it was actually news. It happened, its over, and everybody has moved on. What is the point of bringing it up every single time a positive thing happens with Derrick?

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      Benny, I think I made my point pretty clear. I don’t think that this issue should be the headline for Derrick Rose’s career, but when the story of his rise from Englewood to the top of the NBA is told, it’s folly to just omit the facts from his career that aren’t positive. And that’s exactly what was being done last week, ad nauseum – media throughout the city was spinning a fairy tale that was only partially true.
      And far too often lately we’ve seen the pitfalls of believing in sports fairy tales rather than recognizing the facts about situations and men. Just like with any other public figure, athletes and coaches should be portrayed as they are. Their warts shouldn’t be airbrushed just because they can put a ball in a basket or draw up stellar X’s and O’s. Again, this story doesn’t need to be told in every tale about Derrick Rose, but when you’re talking about how he “made it,” his start should be acknowledged.

      • Lil' Bycracke


        Don’t know if you remember when Derrick won MVP last year on Mother’s Day, but he talked about at length regarding “family first” and having a good family upbringing.

        This is the same D-Rose who:
        1. Has an older brother with a long, drug-related criminal record
        2. Has not publicly stated who is biological father is

        Model family right? It’s just every time the kid says something bright, it does not add up with his upbringing and past history, and I find it hard to take his advice seriously.

    • Lil' Bycracke

      If you went to college, you’d understand how serious academic integrity is. Way more kids than you think get expelled from college FOR LIFE over this kind of stuff on a daily basis.

      • BennyTheBull

        Are you even vaguely familiar with the NCAA?


    Posession of fake I.D.s has become too big. What are they being used for?
    To cheat on a test?
    To get in to a bar? Better send the bounty hunters (the galactic kind)
    Had they not been in possession of the I.D. or caught red-handed, I suspect the college could just vacate their applications and their test results (if they, in fact, took the test).
    And, I wish I knew then what I know about standardized test taking.

  • Lil' Bycracke

    I get concerned from time to time about the same thing.

    Hopefully D-Rose learned from his mistakes with the SAT and Memphis debacle, otherwise that kid who did not want to take the test might show up on the court and fail to get the job done.

    In the end, this same attitude/mentality might prevent the Boo from winning a Championship with him on the team.

    Still, I think he is more mature and if he was able to do it all over again, he would have done things at Memphis the right way. All we can do is wait and hope.


      That’s a good attitude. Academic integrity is important (and professors and coaches should be held to those standards).
      Cheating on the SAT or the ACT make no sense. Get a test-taking manual.
      Pick a different school (that’s not even necessary.) If the only thing that is holding you up from getting in to a top level school is the SAT, there are far less painful options that cheating.

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    I agree but I also chalk it up to youth and pressure from Coach Cal etc.

    GREAT line with Wilt!!!
    That’s Wisch List quality writing at its best.

  • jon


    Slow news day, huh?

  • nathan

    i dont think you understand the reality of the situation…no basketball fans give a fuc wether d rose cheated on his act or sats to get into memphis. As a bulls fan, im glad he cheated his way into memphis (weather true or not) where he could display his greatness and have the bulls pick him at number 1…..instead of him playing overseas somewhere because he couldnt get into a college then being picked up by some other team.

    College is so overrated btw.

  • Jeff Tatro


    I really hope that I’m just not picking up on your sarcasm. If not, your post is obvious that college is necessary.
    Pretty sad and disappointing that some people seem to accept cheating as being an acceptable way to get ahead in life.

  • Derrick

    You can lump this “oversight” with the Kevin Garnett legacy(all of a sudden he comes to town for his senior year to play with the #1 talent in the city(Ronnie Fields) at the “behest” of Nike)

  • LDub

    I can’t believe that Derrick cheating on a SAT four or five years ago was the first thing that came to your mind at the press conference when it should have been why did this guy spend a year at Memphis when he could have been on an NBA roster after graduating from Simeon just like they do in hockey and baseball.

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