Rod Stricklands been here before. A young, explosive point guard he mentored for a year in John Caliparis program, drafted by the Bulls after a freshman season that concluded with the final game of the NCAA Tournament.
Of course, Marquis Teagues lone college campaign ended with a championship, he wasnt the first overall pick in the NBA Draft and hes not carrying the hopes of an entire city on his back. But Strickland, a former DePaul standout, longtime top-notch NBA floor general and current University of Kentucky assistant coach, believes that although Teague went lower than projected in last weeks draft, its a blessing in disguise that he ended up in Chicago, where he can learn from the tutelage of Derrick Rose.
Its great for Marquis because hell get to go to a winning team, a defensive-oriented team, a great coach whos going to demand a lot out of you, like Coach Calipari did to him last year, so I think hell improve. Then, youve got D-Rose there to be by your side, give you tips and kind of show you the ropes, and show you how to be a professional, Strickland told CSNChicago.com, adding that its incredible how Rose has grown and matured so much since his less-vocal college days at the University of Memphis. If I was Marquis, Id be right on D-Roses coattails. Id try to take as much from him and whenever he was working out, Id be there with him because thats what its going to take. But I think hes got a great opportunity to be around that organization, a winning organization.
Strickland, who scored over 14,000 points and dished out over 7,000 assists in a 17-year NBA career following reaching All-American status with the Blue Demons, isnt saying Teague will make the same immediate impact Rose did upon entering the league, but he does think the Indianapolis native is a bit underrated after posting less-than-gaudy statistics he averaged 10 points and 4.8 assists per game on a squad featuring five other draft picks, including the first two overall selections, Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and will eventually flourish on the next level.
I think youll see a different Marquis Teague in the NBA. I think hell open up a little more. Plus, the court gets wider. Youre playing with even better players when you get in the league. The court opens up a lot and hell be able to use his quickness, Strickland explained by phone from Venezuela, where hes assisting Calipari with coaching the Dominican Republic mens basketball national team in a qualifying event for the upcoming Olympics in London. I think hell play better as a pro. I think the court opens up once you get to the league. The defense is different. Theyve got to concentrate on other players. Youre not the main focus.
Theyre going to demand a lot from him, both offensively and defensively, as far as running the team and being that leader, and defensively, what Marquis can do is he can get up in people, he can pressure the ball. He has a toughness about him. I think all those things can be brought out even more with the Bulls.
"Then, youve got D-Rose there. I think thats big-time for him, to teach him what it takes to be a professional and stay in that league for a long period of time, he continued. I think hes capable of being a very good defender. He can get in the ball. Hes strong and quick enough, so I think he can be very good in that.
Teagues transition from a top-10 prep prospect because of his scoring ability to a distributor in college had its ups and downs, but by the end of the season, he found a balance between remaining aggressive, yet limiting his turnovers and keeping his fellow future NBA peers happy by spreading the wealth.
He had to fall back a little bit and Im sure there were times when that was frustrating. He had to get used to that, he had to adjust to it and I think thats probably why he struggled in the beginning," said Strickland. "Hes playing with very good to great players. I think that was an adjustment. In high school, he was the man, he did everything, he just took over and he just played his game. I think some of his instincts were taken away because he had so many great players. As a floor leader, he became better and better as the season went on.
"In the beginning, he struggled with it. When he came in, he had a scorers mentality, but then he realized that wasnt going to be able to be the way he played at Kentucky and it wasnt going to help us succeed, and he changed. He became that floor leader as a point guard, he became more vocal as the year went on. He just grew and matured as a player and a person as the year went on and at the end, he had us under control and he ran the team.
Thats the biggest thing that happened to him. He kind of transformed into a pass-first point guard. Marquis, I think hes a real competitive kid. Tough, hard-nosed kid. Wants to win, wants to compete, he added. When the game gets a little physical and tight and close and a little chatty, he likes that. He enjoys that.
Teague is still a work in progress, but with his ability to get into the paint and push the ball in transition, a focus on pressuring the ball defensively and improvement on his inconsistent outside jumper, he could provide the Bulls with another dimension and in time, a change-of-pace guard behind Rose. And at a time when teams in the league are increasingly going to small-ball, dual point-guard sets think Denvers use of veteran Andre Miller and young speedster Ty Lawson or how former Bulls head coach Vinny Del Negro played All-Star Chris Paul and another Strickland protg at Kentucky, Eric Bledsoe, together with the Clippers his potential becomes evident.
But any visions of how Tom Thibodeau utilizes the duo has to be taken with a grain of salt, as Roses ongoing recovery is still first and foremost in the minds of observers, though Strickland is optimistic about how the former league MVP will respond.
Knowing D-Rose, hes chomping at the bit right now, probably pissed off hes got to sit out and cant get on that court, so Im sure hes doing everything hes got to do to get ready. I see him coming back as D-Rose. I dont see anything being different, he said. I think he loves challenges. I hate that he got injured like that, but Im expecting to see D-Rose when he gets back on the court. Thats the only thing I know from him.