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“That was big” — The respectful gesture John Calipari made that secured Derrick Rose to Memphis

Derrick Rose wanted to follow Eric Gordon to Indiana but John Calipari's gesture changed everything.
Memphis Tigers head coach John Calipari talks to guard Derrick Rose

John Calipari and Derrick Rose

Derrick Rose was one of the hotly recruited high school prospects by all the top colleges. He eventually chose Memphis, not just because of its excellent track record of producing NBA players but because of the respectful gesture made by head coach John Calipari.

White people

According to Rose, his shortlist contained the following schools: North Carolina, UCLA, Indiana, Kansas, Memphis, DePaul, and Illinois. Rose confessed that North Carolina was his top choice due to his obsession with the school’s rivalry with Duke.

Illinois was also a good choice as it is Rose’s home state. But Rose was turned off by Bruce Weber’s refusal to come to his house. This was far from John Calipari’s behavior, whom Rose recalled went to his house with “a Hummer and everything.”

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I didn’t grow up around white people. My first time being in class with a white kid was in college. So a white dude coming in my crib and talking to my mom and she’s understanding where he’s coming from and he’s showing her respect, that was big. And I was feeling the same way. He stood on everything he said. He has integrity. That’s something I respect about him,” Rose wrote in his book, “I’ll Show You.”

A white guy visiting his house was just the first part of the good things that came that night. Rose also noted how well Calipari treated his mother. And Calipari was candid with Rose. He knew that the guard harbored NBA dreams. So much so that Calipari told him: “If you don’t do what you’re supposed to do, you won’t be in my program long, kid.

Eric Gordon

Rose then went on to visit the University of Memphis. He immediately felt at home. But his mom advised him not to rush his decision.

I slept on it, and I was really debating going to Indiana. I knew E.J. -- that’s what we call Eric Gordon Jr. -- was going there. That was real big,” Rose wrote.

Gordon was Rose’s teammate in high school, where they were known as one of the most dynamic duos in the nation. It made sense for Rose to follow his backcourt buddy and continue what they started. But Memphis and Calipari’s pull was just too strong.

I woke up and Memphis was the only thing that was on my mind and I went downstairs and told her. She was kind of surprised. But she knew I was in good hands. And we made it all the way to the championship game,” Rose wrote.

As they say, the rest was history. Rose led Memphis to the best record in the South Region. Along with snagging individual accolades, Rose guided the Tigers to the NCAA championship game against the Kansas Jayhawks. They lost but Rose caught the eye of NBA scouts. He was picked first overall by the Chicago Bulls after one year in Memphis.

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