Sophomore L.J. Rose has a side to him that not many people have the opportunity to see. Rose, the No. 4 player overall in ESPNU's Terrific 25 for 2012, is as dedicated to his community and family as he is dedicated to basketball. His motivation to succeed comes from the support and encouragement of his family and others around him.
L.J.'s unselfishness and generosity are apparent both on and off the court.
On the court, Rose is a 6-foot-4 point guard with excellent ball-handling skills and an uncanny passing ability. He possesses a high basketball IQ and gets everyone on the floor involved.
"People love playing with him because they know they are going to get the ball, not only where they want it at, but where they need it," L.J.'s AAU coach, Marland Lowe of Houston Hoops, said. "He makes everyone around him better."
L.J.'s focus on the court is not himself, which can be a rarity in sports. He understands his role as a point guard, leading his team and improving those around him.
Off the court, L.J.'s support system helps him realize the importance of life away from basketball. L.J.'s father, Lynden Rose, played basketball for the University of Houston and was drafted by the Los Angelas Lakers. Although most of Lynden's basketball career occurred before L.J. was born, he has made it a priority to show his son that there is more to life than athletics. Lynden is a prominent attorney in the Houston area and has served in politics.
Stressing the importance of academics and the ability to have a career outside of basketball, Lynden said it was his responsibility to "introduce him [L.J.] to life outside of sports."
"We have a saying in my home 'Remember who you are,' and that means that no matter where you are, no matter what you're doing, you have a family," Lynden said. L.J. said the phrase has helped him realize that everywhere he goes he is always being watched, and it is his responsibility to set an example for others.
A few years ago, L.J. and his father visited the DePelchin Children's Center in Houston. "We went over there and we put on a clinic," L.J. said. "We worked out with the kids and played with them. It was a great experience."
That was just the beginning for L.J. Through his high school, Second Baptist in Houston, L.J. has traveled on mission trips to help the less fortunate. Caring for others in the area has helped Rose become more appreciative. "It's great and it also just puts stuff in perspective in your life and it makes you more and more thankful to God for everything He has given you," he said.
L.J. makes it clear that his family is the reason for his success. "My family life is key in everything I do," he said. "I have great supporters in my family; my dad, my mom, my brother, and my sister."
L.J. added, "My little brother is my biggest fan, but he's my biggest critic. He'll be the first one to tell me when I'm doing good and when I'm doing wrong."
L.J.'s high school coach at Second Baptist, Roger Kollmansberger, said that the Rose family is different than most. "Everything is very family orientated, and to me, in the world we live in, that's impressive and I think that speaks volumes of his mom and dad," he said. "I think L.J. is there because he wants to be around them. Their family is very grounded."
Kollmansberger, who has just completed his first year as the head coach at Second Baptist, said L.J. is "a coach's dream." Kollmansberger said that L.J. is eager to develop in all areas of his game. Rose's selfless attitude on the court helped guide his team to the state championship game. Shortly after that game, L.J. sustained a foot fracture in an AAU game that has kept him out of basketball for more than a month.
L.J. hopes to be back in June, just in time to compete for the USA Basketball Developmental National Team. Last year, L.J. was the youngest player to make the cut. The team won the gold medal in Argentina, an event L.J. felt was a great honor. "Once we won, it was the greatest feeling ever," he said. "You just won for not just only you, your town, but for the whole United States. It was a great experience."
With his second year of high school coming to an end, L.J.'s game has drawn schools from all over the country. Texas, Texas A&M, Kansas, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Baylor, Kentucky, Memphis, Duke, North Carolina, Florida, Wake Forest, New Mexico, Arizona, Virginia, and Villanova have all shown interest. Rose said he would not narrow his list or make a decision until his senior year.
L.J.'s strong family ties have not only made him a strong person, but they have also influenced his approach to everything he encounters. His attitude in the game of basketball has become a reflection of his attitude in life.
"He has had some real-life exposure that has led him to understand life is more than lacing up your shoes and making 3- pointers," Lynden Rose said. With the help of his family, L.J. has realized that there is more to life than basketball.
"I don't represent myself, I represent my family," Rose said.
Peyton Merriam writes for ESPN affiliate and Memphis fan site MemphisRoar.com.