Board Games A power forward with interests ranging from the tuba to logic puzzles, Malik Rose is blooming in San Antonio

January 15, 2001

Spurs forward Malik Rose is a man of many talents, one of which
is an ability to make the best of things. When he was cut by the
high school basketball team his freshman year, he joined the
bowling team. When he couldn't afford to go to the 76ers' summer
camp as a teenager, he worked in the camp kitchen to pay his way.
And when he was anchored to the San Antonio bench early in his
NBA career, he tried to squeeze a full-game performance into his
few moments of playing time--and earned an unfortunate nickname in
the process. "Basically, I'd try to score 20 points in two
minutes," Rose recalls. "Will Perdue was my buddy, so he'd feed
me the ball. But Will thought he was Magic Johnson, throwing
these crazy behind-the-back passes. So the guys called us the
Domalik and Tragic Show. Domalik Wilkins and Tragic Johnson."

These days the 6'7", 250-pound Rose no longer draws comparisons
to Dominique Wilkins, the former Hawks star, recovering
shotaholic and passophobe. Instead, after spending last summer
working on his outside shot, Rose, 26, has emerged as a contender
for the Sixth Man Award. With his physical defense, rugged
rebounding and manic hustle, he provides a spark--and the
occasional double double--off the bench. Through Sunday, Rose was
averaging career highs of 9.4 points and 6.6 rebounds in 23.2
minutes. "Malik's letting the game come to him now," says coach
Gregg Popovich. "He has an opportunity to be what [Charles]
Barkley was. He's got the huge hands, that big butt and the same
desire."

Growing up in Philadelphia as the second of four children in a
one-parent household, Rose was forced to mature early. When he
was 13, his older brother, Michael, was killed in the crossfire
when a gunfight broke out at a party. Intent on keeping Malik off
the streets, his mother, Janet, pushed him to stay busy at school
as well. The result: Rose became a college counselor's dream, the
extracurricular king of Overbrook High. He joined the debate
club, pitched and played first on the baseball team, was third
board in chess and even earned all-state honors two years in a
row--not in basketball but in the tuba.

Despite being an effective if undersized center at Overbrook,
where he made the team his sophomore year, Rose was recruited by
only four colleges. He chose Drexel, where he finished second in
the nation in rebounding his junior and senior seasons and
graduated with a dual degree in teacher preparation and computer
information systems. Drafted in the second round by the Hornets
in 1996, he lasted a season before Charlotte renounced his
rights, and he signed with San Antonio.

By 1998-99 he'd become an integral part of the Spurs, not only on
the court, where he draws regular Shaq duty when San Antonio
plays the Lakers, but off it as well. "Malik's a great person to
be around," says forward Tim Duncan, "and he's incredibly smart."
Indeed, Rose is one of the few players in the league who does
logic puzzles and dabbles in computer programming during his free
time. He also hopes to pick up an MBA from Drexel (through online
courses) before he's 30 and has plans to open Philly's Phamous, a
San Antonio sandwich shop that will specialize in his hometown's
cuisine, including cheese steaks and water ice.

As for monikers, he has yet to earn one to replace Domalik, but
the truth is, this Rose by any other name would smell as
sweet.

--C.B.

COLOR PHOTO: DARREN CARROLL

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