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2005: DT FREE PRESS – Practicing What He Preaches

June 23, 2008

July 9, 2005 — Ex-Fab Fiver Jalen Rose earns college degree — for himself, the kids he coaches, and his mom…

The University of Michigan’s Fab Five were trash-talking,
chest-bumping, baggy-pants-wearing kids. Their swagger and their
attitude undoubtedly changed college basketball.

But they were also part of a group whose names were dragged into a
scandal that brought shame on U-M, which was sanctioned after some
players were accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars
while in high school and college.

Fab Fiver Jalen Rose wasn’t implicated, but he admits that he’s had his
own slips and slides, including getting caught hanging around a Detroit
crack house while a student at U-M.

But, he said, he’s always been aware of athletes’ position as role
models. He talked to the Free Press about that just before he left U-M
in 1994 to accept a $10.2-million NBA contract. And being a role model
is why he wanted to talk now about his latest accomplishment.

Eleven years after he quit college for the NBA, Rose graduated this
spring, earning a bachelor’s of science degree in management studies
online from the University of Maryland. A little more than 40% of male
Division I college basketball players earn a degree — and far fewer of
the few who make it to the NBA earn their degrees.

"Everything that kids see has an influence, good or bad," Rose said
last week while kids as tall as his knees asked him for autographs
outside of St. Cecelia’s basketball camp on Detroit’s west side.

"It’s a character issue, a caring issue. If they believe you practice
what you preach, it gives your statements a little more value."

He said he’d planned to get his degree when he quit college, but admits that in the early years, "it was mostly just talk."

When he finally got serious about finishing, he took him another 5 1/2
years to work his way through that one last year of college.

"I think it’s great. I take my hat off to him. I congratulate him," U-M
Athletic Director Bill Martin said Wednesday. "It’s even harder if he
did it online, simply because of the discipline that it takes to sit
down every day.

"It’s a wonderful story about Jalen. … Look what he’s done as he matured as a young man," Martin said.

Philadelphia 76er forward and former Fab Fiver Chris Webber, who does
not have his college degree, said of Rose and his accomplishment
Friday, "It’s very important. …I’m proud of him."

Webber said he has not put the thought of getting his degree out of his mind.

Kids take note
Rose lives in Detroit when he’s not playing for the Toronto Raptors.
This summer, he’s hanging around St. Cecelia’s, sometimes playing a
little basketball. He’s also coaching Team Michigan in the 19-and-under
Amateur Athletic Union bracket, which heads to the national
championship later this month, he said. It’s a team he played for when
he was a kid.

At St. Cecelia’s, the gym is so small, spectators have to walk on the
court to scoot along the sidelines. The sound of gym shoes squeaking on
the floor is almost deafening, and the pace of play is ferocious. Old
friends constantly stop to talk with Rose.

Kids on the sidelines don’t need to be told who he is. And they notice what he does.

"I’m going to try to follow right in his footsteps and use basketball
to get me as far as possible," said Walter Williams of Detroit, a
student at Wayne County Community College who was watching Rose coach
from the sidelines while he waited his turn to play.

"He used basketball to get where he is, but he can always go into the business world if he’s got his degree."

Passing along mom’s lesson
Being a role model wasn’t Rose’s only incentive for finishing college.
Maybe even more important was graduating for his mom. He never knew his
father, he said, but Jeanne Rose ran a tight ship.

"School was always stressed; it was always important. Skipping wasn’t
allowed," Jalen Rose said, adding that he was a good student at
Southwestern High School in Detroit.

"Growing up in a single-parent home, it gives you the opportunity to go
astray when your mom’s not home," he said. "I had my misses, but
someone always got me straight."

Now, he’s trying to pass on that ethic. He’s endowed a $250,000
scholarship at U-M, Martin said, for students from Detroit. And each
year, Rose gives a $10,000 college scholarship to five Detroit-area
kids.

Sure it’s a tax deduction. But the students sign a contract with Rose
to maintain a C average. And he calls them to keep them pumped up about
school.

And, OK, it’s a Maryland degree, not a Michigan one, Rose concedes. U-M
didn’t offer a similar online program when he started. "I’m a Michigan
grad with a Maryland diploma," Rose said.

"I still bleed maize and blue," Rose said. "I put in three great years with Michigan, and I didn’t want it to go to waste."

BY PEGGY WALSH-SARNECKI
FREE PRESS EDUCATION WRITER
Contact PEGGY WALSH-SARNECKI at 586-469-4681 or pwalsh@freepress.com. Staff writer Melanie D. Scott contributed to this report.