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Friday, June 20, 2008
Updated: June 23, 10:11 AM ET
Rose 'chases greatness' with a passion for winning

By Andy Katz
ESPN.com

DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Derrick Rose has cried after losing an AAU game. Not just once, but multiple times.

Derrick Rose
Derrick Rose's winning mentality and work ethic make him a special prospect in the NBA draft.

An AAU game? Are you serious? There's usually another game in a few hours, and no one pays much attention to an AAU team's win-loss record.

But once John Calipari saw Rose tear up after an AAU loss, the Memphis coach knew right then that Rose was a player he wanted.

"What turned it for me was when I saw him cry after an AAU loss and the other dudes were racing to get to McDonald's," Calipari said. "This kid was crushed by losing."

Rose wasn't being immature. He cared. Maybe too much, but Calipari would take that passion in a second.

"I just hate losing, and I know on the next level I'll have to get used to it [and] hopefully I won't tear up more at the next level," Rose said after his workout for his hometown Chicago Bulls Thursday morning. "I'm really competitive. If people say I can't shoot, then in a drill I'll try to outshoot them. I just hate losing. No matter what it is, I'll do it to win. Winning is the goal for me."

Rose's brother, Reggie, said Calipari has already warned the point guard that he may lose more games in the first few weeks of the NBA season than he did in his four years in high school and his two-loss season at Memphis.

"It's all true," Reggie Rose said of Derrick's crying. "He hates to lose. Cal was clear that he can't lock himself in his room when they lose."

Calipari doesn't mince words about how much of a difference Rose's winning mentality changed the culture of the Tigers' program. Memphis went to two straight Elite Eights prior to Rose's arrival. Memphis went to the national title game with him, and the Tigers were potentially 17 feet -- a missed two-footer against Tennessee and a missed 15-foot free throw against Kansas in the title game -- from a perfect 40-0 season.

"What I like most about Derrick Rose is that when the lights are on, he takes his game to a different level," said UCLA coach Ben Howland. "The significance of the game raises his game to a higher level. He's a big-game, big-time, lights-on guy. That's when he shines best. Those guys are few and far between. Every big game he played, our game, Texas, he was phenomenal."

It's easy to look at Rose as the next Chris Paul or Deron Williams, two point guards who changed their franchises in New Orleans and Utah, respectively. But Calipari compared Rose to Sam Cassell, saying that Rose is the type of winner Cassell has become at the age of 38, still contributing to a championship with Boston years after winning two titles in Houston.

Derrick Rose
Rose raised his game to another level in the NCAA tournament, averaging 20.8 points, 6.0 assists and 6.5 rebounds.

That winning mentality makes Rose a special prospect, Calipari said.

"Barring injury, he's your point guard the next 15 years," Calipari said. "If you can get one like him, you do it."

Calipari said Rose came to an established team, but after a month or two, he didn't just run the Tigers, he dragged them along.

"He's a guy who chases greatness," Calipari said. "You have to have the habits and the work ethic to truly chase it. He does."

Rose proved his maturity and leadership abilities after Memphis' regular-season loss to Tennessee, the team's only regular-season loss of the season. The freshman was one of only a few Tigers who talked to the media after the game. While veterans Chris Douglas-Roberts and Joey Dorsey hid their faces in the locker room, Rose faced the defeat head-on. From that point on, Rose decided to dominate his position.

And his game wasn't the same after that.

Rose had his scoring moments, like putting up 23 points in 25 minutes in a win at Southern Miss. But he also played the true point with 11 assists and just two turnovers in a win over UAB.

He also averaged 20.8 points, 6.0 assists and 6.5 rebounds in six NCAA tournament games. He dominated head-to-head matchups against top point guards like Texas' D.J. Augustin and UCLA's Darren Collison.

"It was win, win, win, win, and when the [NCAA] tournament came, Derrick was going to be the best player at his position," Reggie Rose said. "It just so happens that the other young players lost earlier in the tournament [like Michael Beasley of Kansas State, Eric Gordon of Indiana, Jerryd Bayless of Arizona, O.J. Mayo of USC] and that's why the spotlight was on him."

The wow factor for Rose was endless.

"I just knew that I had to put the team on my shoulders," Rose said. "I had to run the team."

Derrick Rose
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The one blemish that Rose can't forget came against Kansas in the title game. He missed a free throw with 10 seconds left in regulation. If he made the free throw, Memphis would have had a four-point lead. Instead, with a three-point lead, Kansas' Mario Chalmers hit a game-tying 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds left.

Following the title game, Rose was crying, hugging Reggie and spiritual advisor Jesse Jackson outside the Memphis locker room.

"He's his own worst critic and he internalizes his game, and if he makes a mistake, it takes a while for him to get over it," Calipari said.

Despite the one miss, Rose and Reggie say he must be blessed.

The Bulls were slated to get the ninth pick in the NBA draft and had a 1.7 percent chance of landing at No. 1. Rose said he was signing with his agents, Arn Tellem and B.J. Armstrong in Los Angeles on May 20, the day of the draft lottery. He said Tellem asked him who he wanted to play for.

"Of course I said the Bulls, and everyone was laughing because they said it's not going to happen," Rose said. "Then it was just crazy. It was like one in a thousand, and they got the pick. God must have had something to do with it."

The Bulls have a tough choice to make between Rose and Beasley. But the one thing they won't have to worry about if they choose Rose is his commitment to the game.

"He's not doing this so he can be on MTV to show his crib," Calipari said. "That's not this kid. He doesn't need someone to say, 'Hey, look what's in my refrigerator.' He's driven like Tiger Woods. He's got it. He's unique like that."

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.