Making it to the NBA is one thing. Becoming the best player you could be is another. DeMar DeRozan is one of the many players who trekked a tricky maze in his rookie year. Fortunately, DeRozan's career made a 360 turn after a brief encounter with Milwaukee Bucks icon Michael Redd.
In an interview with Taylor Rooks, DeRozan tagged Redd as the player who first told him he has the potential to make it big in the NBA. DeRozan believes that Redd probably doesn't even remember that moment. But the Chicago Bulls guard cherishes that quick meeting to this day.
You're going to be special
"One person who, in my rookie year, told me something that stuck with me — I don't even know if he remembers this — is Michael Redd. He told me I was going to be special in this league. Don't stop. I just remember those words vividly. 'You're going to be special in this league. Don't stop. Keep working.' It was my rookie year. Michael Redd. I never got the chance to tell him thank you for that. He may not even remember. But Michael Redd told me those words and it stick with me to this day," DeRozan said.
DeRozan could not precisely pinpoint why Redd's words made an immediate impact on him. A good part of it was Redd's stature during that time. After all, in the mid to late 2000s, Redd was known as one of the premier scorers in the league. His 3-point shot was automatic. He also had other offensive weapons in his toolbox.
19-year-old playing with grown men
Apart from this, DeRozan admitted to being overwhelmed with so much emotion and questions in his rookie year. For his entire high school and college career, DeRozan was used to being the head honcho of the squad. When he stepped foot in the NBA, the Compton native discovered that there were a ton of players way better than him.
"I don't know. It's just that moment when he pulled me to the side. I felt how genuine he was about it. Because even at that point, in my rookie year, you deal with so many emotions, questioning like 'Damn, when am I going to be good? When am I going to be myself? When am I going to be comfortable?' Like, I'm only 19-years-old playing with grown men. So for him to pull me to the side and acknowledge something towards me that I was feeling iffy about was all I needed."
Statistics back up DeRozan's claim. In his rookie year, he averaged a mere 8.6 points per game. The USC standout was on the verge of becoming one of the many top prospects who failed to realize his full potential. We've all seen top picks become mere role players or, worse, out of the NBA in a matter of years.
However, come his second year in the NBA, DeRozan boosted his average to 17.2 points per game. He would never average single digits in his career ever again. And every year, he would improve other aspects of his game. In turn, DeRozan would become the Toronto Raptors' franchise star. Now, DeRozan is regarded as one of the elites of the game.