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Right now Memphis' Rose's life has a special sweet smell

Against UCLA, Derrick Rose made his case for being considered among the elite.

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Against UCLA, Derrick Rose made his case for being considered among the elite.

SAN ANTONIO — A year ago, he was in high school. Just another kid being pampered by his three older brothers and walking the same halls as hundreds of anonymous teens.

A year from now, he will be in the NBA. Just another lottery draft pick being pampered by his ownership group and living the rich man's life in a league filled with millionaires.

But these days?

Ah, these days, Derrick Rose is legend.

He should be among the ones everyone recalls whenever some freshman with unnatural gifts shows up on some distant court. He should be among the ones the old-timers mention whenever the subject of college point guards is broached.

He should be the one the folks in Memphis never, ever forget.

The University of Memphis is one victory from winning its first NCAA Tournament, and Rose is one electric performance away from leaving an indelible mark on the college game.

Did you see the kid against UCLA on Saturday night? The behind-the-back dribbles? The no-look passes? The drives to the hoop that combined gymnastics and aeronautics into something akin to basketball?

"He was explosive," said UCLA senior Lorenzo Mata-Real.

Only a handful of freshmen have scored more than Rose's 25 points in a Final Four game, and it's hard to recall any doing it with such panache while playing point guard.

"He controlled the tempo," said UCLA junior Darren Collison.

On a team that was supposed to crumble in the tournament because of poor free-throw shooting, Rose knocked down 11 of 12 from the line.

"He's pretty good," UCLA junior Josh Shipp said.

Pretty good is one description. Pretty spectacular is another.

UCLA was the team that was supposed to win with defense. The Bruins were the guys who rarely gave up an easy shot and hardly ever allowed another team to dictate the game's pace.

Yet Rose shredded the UCLA defense with a performance that seemed effortless at times. How do you like a point guard with a 4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio? How about a 9-to-1 rebound-to-turnover ratio?

Bruins coach Ben Howland, who had run up against Florida's spread-the-wealth approach in the past two Final Fours, seemed to sense what he was in for when talking about Rose a day earlier.

"He's so strong, he can get wherever he wants to go," Howland said. "I saw one play, I believe it was against Texas, where he went up and grabbed the ball on a rebound on defense. Two hands, way above the rim. It looked like Jason Kidd or Sidney Moncrief or someone like that. Then he went coast-to-coast like a bull in about three seconds, if that, and laid it in on the other end."

Until the last few weeks, Rose was sort of a rumor. The kid you heard about but rarely saw on national broadcasts. Tyler Hansbrough of North Carolina was the player of the year. Michael Beasley of Kansas State was the player NBA scouts were salivating over.

On Saturday night, Rose made his case for a recall. Not that Hansbrough isn't a special player, and not that Beasley won't go near the top of the draft, but Rose may be better than both.

And that just might be the opinion of Miami Heat coach Pat Riley, who is in position to make the call on the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. Riley has been bouncing around the country, taking in Memphis' NCAA Tournament games just to get an up-close view of the country's best point guard.

If Rose is feeling the pressure, he hides it well. Rose has been all giggles and aw-shucks since arriving in San Antonio.

Maybe that has something to do with the three older brothers who kept him in line when he was growing up in a harsh neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. They protected him from the dangers of the streets and the pitfalls of too many agents and coaches wanting a piece of the prodigy.

Remember, this is a Memphis team that went 33-4 last season, and yet Rose took over as a leader from virtually the moment he hit campus as an 18-year-old last fall.

Tigers coach John Calipari admits even he has had moments when Rose makes his jaw drop.

"Every once in a while, I just go 'Oh my,' and sit down. And they usually come at inopportune times for the other team," Calipari said.

It will last only another 48 hours. He hasn't announced it, but Rose is certain to head to the NBA at season's end.

He has only one thing left to do.

John Romano can be reached at romano@sptimes.com.

Right now Memphis' Rose's life has a special sweet smell 04/05/08 [Last modified: Monday, April 7, 2008 7:53am]
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