Sunday, February 18, 2007

Even in greatness, Rose finds ways to improve

POINT #1 .... There is an interesting article in the Sunday Chicago Sun-Times regarding Derrick Rose's final hurdle: aggressiveness. First, finding faults in Derrick Rose, the Simeon star, is being a little nitpicky. We're talking about one of the greatest players this state has produced and, in my mind, the best guard this state has had in more than 25 years. He's won a state title, will likely be the Mr. Basketball winner and will be a NBA Lottery Pick whenever he chooses to go pro, whether that's next year or later. I stand by my quotes in the story, which basically states that those who watch Rose the most would simply like to see him raise his level of play every game out, no matter what the circumstances are.

We want to see what we saw from Rose at the UIC Pavilion when Simeon took out the nation's top-ranked team, Oak Hill Academy. We want to see the Rose we saw against St. Joseph on Saturday night at Northwestern. He came out and took over in the first quarter, was aggressive, made four three-point shots that really set the tone for the rest of the game.

A player with the ability of Rose has to assert himself, look to dominate at this level each time out and play with a sense of urgency. It shouldn't be about proving critics wrong or being motivated by what newspaper writers and analysts say. In the loss to Farragut earlier this year Rose barely looked for his shot or to score. He's had performances against lesser teams and talent, where he's not exactly needed for Simeon to win, where he would just as soon relax in the shadows, such as the three games at the Pontiac Tournament where he scored in single digits.

This does not mean Rose doesn't play hard. It doesn't mean winning is not a high priority for Rose. He plays hard and he plays to win--always. And he always plays unselfishly, almost to a fault. It just means the great ones have that killer instinct, which now appears to be coming along for Rose in the second half of the season. This has been Rose's biggest area of improvement over the past month or so, which shows again why he's one of the state's all-time best.

POINT #2 .... I'm not sure if a team has played a more important individual game all season than Loyola's matchup with Warren in the City-Suburban Showdown at Northwestern. There is no question Loyola is one of the state's elite teams, but of all of those elite teams in the Chicago area, Loyola has played the softest schedule and had minimal opportunities to prove themselves to the high school basketball world.

Loyola's big chance came against Eric Gordon on ESPN. The Ramblers were embarrassed. Yes, they did hand Lake Park its lone loss, but the matchup with Warren on a big stage was critical for this team. A loss to Warren may have really left some doubt as to whether this team can beat a really good team. Now, the Ramblers have a boost heading into state tournament play.

POINT #3 .... The whispers are being heard that Thornwood is done. The Thunderbirds have dropped three straight games, including lopsided losses to a fast-improving H-F team and to Thornton last Friday night. Those that are doing the whispering should probably shut it and wait until March is over.

Rewind to last season. Thornwood lost three of its final five regular-season games, including a 61-40 defeat to Thornton in the regular-season finale. Coach Bob Curran rallied his team to a dramatic March run, which included a five overtime win over Washington in the sectional final and a triple overtime win over H-F in the supersectional. The Thunderbirds finished third in the state. Don't underestimate the fact that Curran has his teams ready and prepared for March and knows what it takes to make deep state tournament runs.

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