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2006: GOT GAME MAGAZINE – Trend Setter

June 23, 2008

Got_Game_Cover_25.JPGFebruary 2006 — Nobody’s style influenced today’s generation of
basketball players more than Jalen Rose and the University Of Michigan
Fab Five. Characterized by baggy shorts, bald heads, and black socks
and shoes, the trash talkin’ college point guard and his four freshman
teammates brought a certain type of personality and swagger to the game
that had never been seen before by corporate America. People attributed
the change in style to "hip-hop," which attracted many of the athletes
then, and still today. "N.W.A., Naughty by Nature, E.P.M.D. those were
role models to a lot of basketball players and other athletes growing
up, so it?s natural that some of those same attitudes starting showing
up on the court," said Jalen.

What many don’t realize is that Mr. Rose brought more than just
"hip-hop" to the game – he allowed for athletes to let their
individuality shine on the court and not be contained by white America.
Soon after the trends of baggy shorts and black socks, came corn rows
and tattoos, which are as commonplace in the basketball world today as
Gatorade and Air Jordans. Headbands, leg compression spandex, blow-out
haircuts, all an indirect result of Jalen letting the world know "who
he really was" back in 1991. "In the early 90’s, it wasn’t cool to have
a personality," recalled Jalen. "It wasn’t cool to be what we say today
is hip-hop. We became pioneers for the attitude and personalities you
see amongst the majority of ball players growing up in this era."

We talk so much about how your style and swagger influenced a whole generation. Who were you influenced by?
There were teams before us that I looked up to that I felt brought a
certain swagger: Derrick Coleman’s Syracuse team, Anderson Hunt’s Las
Vegas-Nevada team, teams like the Phi Slamma Jamma. They all brought a
certain kind of "umph" to the game.

And what made the Fab Five different from those teams?
"I felt we really took it to the next level. We were the first ones to
really have corporate America scratching its head saying, Where did
these guys come from?" We did and said what every young urban kid felt
like he would do if he was put on a national stage and had a microphone
in front of his face and had the opportunity to play on CBS with the
world watching. And instead of us thinking about, Coach (Steve) Fisher
allowed us to be who we were. He allowed us to have a personality. He
wasn’t scared to put us out there because of what people might say (he
showed us the letters that people sent him and a lot of it was
negative) about how negatively we were impacting the game. That’s what
I loved about Coach Fisher.

You’ve played several different positions (point guard, shooting
guard, small forward) throughout college and in the league. Which one
are you most comfortable playing and why?

I think I got lucky because when I was growing up, my high school coach
Perry Watson always talked to me about being versatile since I never
knew how tall I was going to be or what situation a team would need to
use me in. there are a lot of guys that become specialists and can just
play defense or just rebound or just shoot. The problem with
specialists is that you can’t always utilize them depending on the
situation. So I got lucky in high school, college, and in the pros to
actually be able to play all of those positions, and have success at
all of them. I feel as though I play all those positions equally well
because I’ve had similar success at each position. It really just
depends on the other four guys out there with me and playing wherever
the coach asks me to. A lot of people have the misconception that
playing a position is something that you want to do, when actually it
is something that the coach or the team asks you to do or needs you to
do.

In a perfect world, what position do you prefer?
To be honest, I like all of them for different reasons. I like playing
point guard because it allows me to help manage the game like a coach
on the floor, whether it’s to get guys involved, understand when the
other team is on a run, know who’s hot and who’s not, and be able to
use my size against other guards and my passing ability to make plays
out there on the floor. I’ve had a game in the league where I’ve had
over 20 assists. Then I like playing shooting guard where my jobs is to
take advantage of smaller 2-guards, still be able to create and make
plays for the other guys, come off screens, shoot 3-pointers, things of
that nature. I had a 40-point game doing that. The small forward is a
lot of times considered the best athlete on the floor because you get a
chance to play up at four but yet down at guard, and still allows you
to play a point-forward type position like a Scottie Pippen. I like all
the positions. I grew up wanting to play a point guard because I looked
up to Magic Johnson and that was my idol, but actually playing the game
I like them all.

Talk about your experiences growing up in Detroit and how those
experiences have shaped the way you play basketball and who you are as
an individual.

I think growing up in the inner city on the west side of Detroit gives
you a lot of lesson in life. It helps you deal with growing up as a
have or have not depending on your circumstance or my circumstance.
When you are from a lower middle class family, you may not always get
everything you wrote on your Christmas list or always get a full-course
meal for dinner, but you find ways to still be happy and still be
productive whether it’s off the court or on the court. I was a guy that
played street basketball whether it was in the backyard, at the park,
or at the YMCA. Me and my homeboys actually built ourselves a full
court with crates. We took 2 long pieces of wood, got a wood backboard,
nailed the rims on there, and put it in the back of the alley under the
street lights and we had our own full court. We called it "Showtime."
We put bricks on the back of it so it wouldn’t fall. I always played
whether it was with guys my age or older than me (because of that you
had to be tough). You had to be a fighter whether it’s because you got
"next" and someone wanted to take your game, or because you went to the
hole and someone elbowed you in the mouth. You learn not to quit and
you learn that if you want to be a great player or play basketball for
a living, you have to do all the little things. Being that I had a
father that played, I always thought it was in my will and in my blood
to play so I always did the little things. I played when I was young
like a professional. I took it that serious.

Talk about your typical off-season workout.
I always play summer league in St. Cecilia. St. Cecilia is one of the
best summer basketball leagues in the country. It’s been around for a
long time. I always play summer league there, and I’m happy to say my
team won the championships the last three years. I saw Fat Joe and told
him to get that Rucker team together to come play against my St.
Cecilia team. We said were going to talk about it but we haven’t made
it happen yet. I really just try not to get out of shape in the
off-season. After a few years in this league, you understand that you
can’t get out of shape because it breaks down your body especially your
legs, ankles, Achilles, and your back. So whether it’s running on the
treadmill or working out in the gym a couple times a week, I always do
something. And as the season gets closer, I pick up my drill work,
dribbling, shooting, post moves, etc.

Do you keep a strict diet?
Diet is a big part of being an athlete because you can run fast as you
want, jump high as you can, you can lift as many weights as possible,
but if you’re not eating the right foods and putting the right things
in your body, you won’t last. You have to look at your body like it’s a
temple. Say, for example, you drive a flashy car like a Lamborghini or
Phantom, you won’t go putting just any kind of gas into it. My
teammates always used to joke me saying I was Muslim because I stopped
eating pork. The real reason I don’t eat pork isn’t because I’m Muslim,
it’s because I felt I ate it too much and I know it’s not the best
thing for my body. I cut down on beef too because beef can sit on your
stomach for 4-6 weeks. Don’t get me wrong, it’s all good when it’s
going down, but it’s not as good when you have to chase Kobe the next
day. I also cut down on drinking juices. I try to eat as many meals as
possible because all that food goes to your core and your core is
everything.

Your GM made some disparaging comments at the beginning of the
season concerning the outlook of the team this year. How did you take
that knowing this is your GM doubting your team’s potential?

He told the team it was taken out of context. Whether it was true or
not, the bottom line is regardless of what people believe or the
product that’s put on the floor (because he’s the one that put the team
together), we still have to get out there and play and do the best we
can to be competitive because that’s what we do for a living. Whether
we go out and have a great season or a bad season or a good night or a
bad night, we are going to be judged by the people watching us, not
necessarily by the people that don’t understand there is a greater
power to basketball called "business" that put these 15 guys together
as a team to go out there and be competitive. You take that as a grain
of salt and there are a lot of people not predicting us to do anything
so I tell the team you have to have a "nothing to lose" attitude and
come out and be a surprise team. That’s what it’s all about.

Who do you feel needs to perform well in order for the team to have success this year?
When you have a team that’s a young team (and we have a young core
group of guys with the centerpiece being Chris Bosh – I think he has a
chance to be a real superstar in this league if he keeps his attitude
the way it is and his work ethic the way it is), you have to rely on
young guys that are unknown because they haven’t done it consistently.
And that’s what you normally win with in this league, not only
knowledge but the ability to be consistent so you know what you are
getting. We don’t really know what to expect out of Charlie Villanueva
even though I like him and think he’s going to be a good player. The
same with Joey Graham and Rafael Araujo, who was a lottery pick last
year. So if those guys continue to improve and continue to play better,
the situation will be better. If those guys stay unknown and don’t
perform up to what we hoped they would, then we’re going to struggle
this season.

Being a good offensive player, you typically draw the opposing
team’s best defensive player. What player(s) in the NBA give you the
most fits defensively and who do you enjoy playing against the most?

I love playing against all the guys who are considered premier
defenders, whether it’s a Ron Artest or a Bruce Bowen or a Ben Wallace.
You want to play against the guys that are considered premier defenders
because that’s when you have your best games a lot of times. But to be
honest (not to knock those guys at all) in the NBA, defense is only
when guys miss shots. No matter who you are or how hard or tough
defense you play, once a guy gets going offensively, there’s not much
you can do. I like to play against all the guys and I can’t really say
that one gives me more problems than another, especially once I get my
game going!