Bulls' Rose says he took SAT

DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Derrick Rose tutored the top teens in China on a basketball teaching tour with Dwight Howard. He shot a video game commercial with Kobe Bryant, too, so there really were some fun moments during the offseason no matter how bad it looked at times.

That photo of him flashing gang signs wasn't one of his finest moments. That scandal at Memphis was another blow to his reputation, even if he insisted several times he did nothing wrong.

On the eve of the Chicago Bulls' training camp, Rose did it again. The star point guard reiterated that he took the SAT exam to get into Memphis and dismissed the idea that someone did so in his place.

"I took it, I took it," Rose said Friday.

The NBA's Rookie of the Year last season, Rose found himself at the center of a scandal over the summer when the NCAA ruled that Memphis must vacate its 38 wins and national championship game appearance during the 2007-08 season for using an ineligible player. The school is appealing the ruling.

The NCAA said an unknown person took the SAT for a player -- with his knowledge -- and that the player used it to get admitted. The governing body said the athlete played for the Tigers only during the 2007-08 season and the 2008 NCAA tournament. Rose is the only person who fits that description, but he insisted no one took the test for him.

"That's for sure," he said.

A former No. 1 draft pick, Rose has emerged as one of the league's top young players and helped his hometown team get back to the playoffs after missing the postseason the previous year. He led all rookies last season with 6.3 assists per game and was second in scoring average at 16.8, thanks to quickness and strength that allowed him to burst past defenders.

But as smooth as his transition to the NBA was, his offseason was just as bumpy.

An Internet photo surfaced with him flashing a gang sign, and Rose apologized for that. The violations at Memphis were another hit.

"I wasn't worried about anybody saying I didn't take it," he said. "If that's the case, somebody would have then said it."

Rose couldn't recall his score, saying, "I don't even remember my last report card."

All that matters to him now is how he and his teammates grade out once the season starts.

Despite all the accolades last season, Rose said he would give himself just a "C," which shows how hard he is on himself. As explosive as he is, he realized he needed to work on his defense and jumper over the summer, particularly with leading scorer Ben Gordon gone to Detroit.

The burden is not just on Rose.

It's also on John Salmons and Kirk Hinrich, who will make up the rest of the three-guard rotation, not to mention on Luol Deng and young forwards Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah.

The Bulls believe they have enough to compensate for the loss of Gordon now that Hinrich and Deng are both healthy after being injured for much of last season. It also helps that Salmons and center Brad Miller are with them from the start after sparking a turnaround following a midseason trade.

"We have a lot of guys who can put the ball in the basket on this team," said Hinrich, who missed 31 games after surgery on his right thumb early in the season. "We have a lot of talent without Ben."

They believe they'll be better on defense, which was a strength during their three-year playoff run under former coach Scott Skiles.

They also expect more from Deng, who looked like a budding star in 2006-07 but has been slowed by injuries the past two years. He missed the final six weeks of the regular season and the playoffs with a stress fracture in his right tibia and averaged just 14.1 points -- his lowest output since his rookie year in 2004-05.

"I'm excited to be back. I want to be on the floor," Deng said. "As a leader, going through things like that, you see things sitting down and watching the game. I feel like I'm even more mature, and I'm going to come into the year and just bring that to the team, try to be a better leader on the floor or talking to the guys on the side. I really want to do a better job of it."