Detroit — Jalen Rose never got to play for the Pistons himself, but he’s been a fan from his years at Detroit Southwestern and playing days at Michigan through his NBA career.
His fandom may have reached a high when the Pistons got the No. 1 pick and selected Cade Cunningham in the draft last month. At his annual golf outing Monday at Detroit Golf Club for the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, he spoke of the excitement he had when the pick was announced.
“We finally got the No. 1 pick, and the reason why I was happy was because of (Cunningham),” Rose said. “It’s one thing to have the No. 1 pick; it’s another thing to have a consensus No. 1 player.
“On the floor, (he can) dribble, pass and shoot. He’s competitive defensively, and smooth. I haven’t been this excited for a Pistons draft pick since Grant Hill — and to show you how much I’m a Pistons fan, he got picked before me (in the 1994 draft).”
Rose said he sees some favorable comparisons between Hill and Cunningham in their playing styles and the way they carry themselves on and off the court. It’s too early to try to make a direct comparison with being top-level picks and the maturity with which they handled the spotlight.
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“I’m not saying that he is Grant Hill; I’m saying he reminds me of Grant Hill. When I stood next to Grant Hill, we both were 21 but I was talking like I was 17 — and he was talking like he was 25. That’s what Cade reminds me of.
“His game is going to be terrific; he’s got, All-NBA potential. I appreciate it that he embraces the city of Detroit and we’re going to embrace him.”
Cunningham, 19, had an outstanding debut at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, where he was selected to the All-Summer League second team, and made an impression about how his all-around game will fit with the Pistons when training camp begins next month.
Rose, who is an ESPN studio analyst, is continuing the drive to raise money for his high school academy, which is celebrating its 10-year anniversary. The school has helped graduate hundreds of students and his annual golf outing brings out celebrities such as former Detroit mayors Dennis Archer Sr. and Dave Bing, as well as Lions legend Calvin Johnson, who was recently inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Having a school that bears his name is creating as big a legacy for Rose as his years at Michigan with the Fab Five, which is a heavy undertaking.
“I guess when things happen organically, you don’t get a chance to plan them. We knew the Fab Five had an opportunity to be something special, but I didn’t know 30 years later that I’d be working the NBA draft and first-round picks would be named Jalen. I didn’t anticipate any of that,” he said. “If you look back at my journey, I guess if you had to pick somebody that would be the founder of a school, I probably wouldn’t be high on that list, but I always took pride in my education, though.
“That was one of the things that I think wasn’t discussed enough about our group. We took pride in being talented basketball players, but we also took pride in not being dumb jocks … Education was always a priority and it was always important. Just to watch how the influence of JRLA has been so outstanding. I was raised in this community and I still live in this community, so I’m at Pistons games, Lions games and Michigan games, and I still live here.”