Anthony Davis speaks on the inspiration he's drawn from Derrick Rose

USA Today

Anthony Davis speaks on the inspiration he's drawn from Derrick Rose

Anthony Davis is one of a handful of Chicago products participating in the city’s first All-Star weekend in over three decades. But, in his youth, he didn’t take the most conventional of paths.

Davis, an Englewood native, attended Perspectives High School for four years — far from a household program in the illustrious realm of Chicago basketball (he remains the school’s only graduate to reach the NBA and one of three to go Division 1). Though he eventually committed to the University of Kentucky as the nation’s No. 1 recruit, Davis said during his All-Star media session that he at one point weighed transferring out — to Simeon Career Academy.

Why? Davis said that, growing up in the city, one of his biggest inspirations was Derrick Rose.

“Rose is still one of my favorites to watch. Even when I was considering — well, I wouldn't say consider, but I had the thought of leaving Perspectives — it was actually probably going to be (for) Simeon because of Derrick Rose,” Davis said. “He's one of the guys who I think every guy underneath him looked up to because of the things he did for the city.”

As he matured, that appreciation only grew.

“And then him actually getting drafted to the Bulls and doing what he did, that whole run, I think that's inspiring for all of us,” Davis said. 

Rose’s Bulls tenure, of course, ended unceremoniously, after multiple knee injuries and a fraught relationship with the media hampered what appeared to be a career destined for legendary status. A civil suit filed against him in 2016 alleging rape (of which he was found “not liable”) also contributed to his fall from grace. As Rose meandered through brief stops in New York and Cleveland, his future in the NBA loomed uncertain. 

Now, he’s enjoying his best season since being traded from Chicago in Detroit with the Pistons. Davis welcomed Rose’s reascension, citing his 50-point outing with Minnesota last season as “emotional” and even alluding to rumors that the Lakers pursued making a deal for Rose at February’s trade deadline.

“His love for the game has brought him back. You know, he could have easily [taken] the out and quit or retired or whatever, but he made sure he stuck with it, and now he's the best player for the Pistons, man. He got his game back,” Davis said. “Obviously you saw something about [the Lakers] trying to get him, but he's a guy who's been very very great for the game of basketball.

“D-Rose is back. Him being from Chicago, me being from Chicago, I was happy for him, happy to see him doing well.”

It all speaks to the fraternity of Chicago basketball. Davis said he continues to give back to and check in on the progress Perspectives’ program, and used the success of Kendrick Nunn in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday and Patrick Beverly’s participation in the Skills Challenge on Saturday as a vehicle to double down on his assertion that Chicago is the Mecca of basketball.

“Proving my point. Making a strong case for what I said. I think all the Chicago guys represent Chicago well,” Davis said.

As for his own excitement, being back in his home city (and playing in the same arena he took part in the McDonald’s All-American game back in 2011)?

“To get back here and play in front of the fans in a place where I grew up, in a place where I had my first big-time game… It’s very exciting.”

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Chicago product Kendrick Nunn shows out in return home for All-Star weekend

USA Today

Chicago product Kendrick Nunn shows out in return home for All-Star weekend

For Kendrick Nunn — born and bred on the South Side of Chicago — there’s simply no place like home.

Even now, years removed from the time he says he fell in love with basketball in his backyard and at Simeon Career Academy, that rings true. As a member of the Miami Heat, he dropped 21 points on 8-for-14 shooting in his first NBA game at the United Center on Nov. 22. Tonight, back there again, he posted a cool 16 on 7-for-11 in Team USA’s 151-131 drubbing of Team World in the Rising Stars Challenge with a slew of close family in attendance.

“It’s very special,” Nunn said the morning of the game about the chance to represent his city. "Representing Chicago, the South Side, myself, my family. I'm representing a lot, and it feels good just to be here and represent those things and what I'm about."

That’s not just said for show. On Thursday, when Nunn first got into town, he paid a visit to Simeon and spoke to players and coaches, who he says are preparing for a championship game on All-Star Sunday. Ask those that came up in Chicago, and that community and commitment to legacy is unique to the city.

“Chicago basketball means a lot. Obviously you have the culture here, a lot of great guys coming from Chicago, a lot of players and things like that,” Nunn said. “Just a legacy that we like carrying on and we like playing with.

“I'm just putting on for the city and where I'm from.”

That legacy, Nunn said, is carried by playing “relentless.” On All-Star Saturday, Patrick Beverly — whose trash-talking Nunn lauded — will get a chance to showcase that. On Sunday, during the All-Star game itself, former Bull Jimmy Butler takes the stage for Team Giannis and Englewood native Anthony Davis for Team LeBron. 

But on night one, Nunn shined alongside a Team USA starting lineup of all top five picks in Trae Young, Ja Morant, Zion Williamson and Jaren Jackson Jr. Admittedly, he didn’t receive the most raucous ovations of the night (that was reserved for such dazzling moments as Luka Doncic’s near-halftime-buzzer-beating half court shot and the pseudo-dunk contest that broke out in the game’s final minute), but the ones he got struck a chord.

“Everybody did,” Nunn said when asked if anyone nudged him to step up in his return home, though he shot down any talk of nervousness. “Coming back to my hometown, Chicago, playing in the Rising Stars game is big for me, everybody wanted me to show out.”

Of his 17 points, the two loudest came on a thunderous tomahawk slam in the third quarter.

“Going in the lane, getting some dunks,” Nunn said with a smile of his favorite moments from the night. And of the reception: “I definitely heard it. I don’t know how loud it was.”

There’s just something about being home.

“It’s everything. I dreamed of it. It’s a dream come true,” Nunn said. “Growing up in Chicago, I went to the United Center watching Bulls games, and I never really envisioned myself playing on the floor until years ago, when I realized I can do this.” 

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Simeon defensive back Chau Smith commits to Wyoming

Nick Lucero/Rivals

Simeon defensive back Chau Smith commits to Wyoming

Simeon senior three-star ranked defensive back recruit Chau Smith (5-foot-11, 175 pounds) decided today to end his recruiting process and give the University of Wyoming his verbal commitment. Smith discusses his college decision here.

"I'm really happy about my decision," Smith said. "I had a great visit this weekend to Wyoming and the visit really sealed the deal for me."

Smith, who had recently narrowed his top schools list to the Cowboys along with Toledo, NIU, Colorado State and Temple, filled us in on what stood out to him on his weekend official visit to Wyoming.

"The coaching staff at Wyoming is great," Smith said. "Coach Rich (John Richardson) is nothing less than real and I can't emphasize that enough. I also know that head coach (Craig) Bohl has my best interest at heart. He has made a commitment to me that I will leave Laramie with my college degree. My family loves that and they also loved it at Wyoming and I loved it at Wyoming. Just the whole vibe at Wyoming is great and I feel I will be pushed to become a greater player and that the coaches will push me to do great things."

Earlier in the week Smith had no official visit plans set. He decided at the last minute to take an official visit to Wyoming.