Jalen Rose is a 13-year NBA veteran, but he's probably best known as one of the Fab Five, the legendary group of freshmen basketball players at the University of Michigan in the early '90s.
Growing up in the Detroit area, Rose encountered first-hand the obstacles facing athletes from underprivileged backgrounds. To help others find success as he did, Rose recently founded the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy (JRLA), a new charter high school in Detroit. He also serves as president of the board of directors.
STACK recently spoke with Rose about his home town, the dangers facing many young athletes and the new school bearing his name. Below is Part 1 of our interview; check back later this week for Part 2.
STACK: Let's start by talking about Detroit. You're originally from the area, and the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy is located in Detroit. How does the Motor City influence young athletes?
Jalen Rose: A lot of the challenges have nothing to do with school. They're social issues, community issues. When you grow up in an environment like that, a lot of times you lose your innocence so fast, because you're exposed to so many things. So you have a different mindset, a different mentality beyond someone who's a young teenager.
STACK: How did Detroit make you the man and the athlete you are today? Did it put a chip on your shoulder?
JR: Absolutely, it's a chip that can be used for motivation. You understand what it's like to be in a situation where society views you as a statistic that's going to be a failure in life.
But one positive comes from that. You feel like if you're able to pull yourself out of a bad situation—find a way to get to school, get your grades, get to practice when everybody else is hanging out in the neighborhood; if you can keep your nose clean as much as possible; if you're able to come through a situation like that, the world is your oyster. Nothing is stopping you at that point.
STACK: Detroit sports teams have been playing well, and recent coverage suggests that their success is somehow helping t0 "fix" the city. What do you think about the way Detroit is covered in the sports media?
JR: There are way deeper problems, way deeper issues. Of course, if the Detroit Lions are 5-1 for the first time in 50 years, if the Detroit Tigers make it to the ALCS, if the Detroit Red Wings are a contending team every year, that has to be covered. And that is a great thing for our city, because all of those teams play downtown. So to have those games, to have that trade, that commerce, people coming to visit for the games, people spending money downtown, really creating an excitement about the games, that makes us feel good. The players really understand that it's a blue-collar city and a union-based town, and they really embrace it, and we really appreciate it.
But when the smoke clears and the game is over, the problems still exist. And the problems are billion dollar problems that an individual can't fix. We need big corporate dollars in order to turn around the fortunes of our great town.
STACK: How did you decide to start the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy?
JR: Obviously, basketball was the vehicle that put me in a position to be an All-American in high school and college [and] play 13 years in the NBA. But I was always a serious student—making the honor roll in high school, appearing on the dean's list in college.
Through the Jalen Rose Charitable Fund, [we've] helped influence 40 kids via scholarships to college. Also, I have an endowment at the University of Michigan that has graduated three students.
Only 31 percent of ninth graders in Detroit's public high schools are graduating in four years. So I wanted to do something that helps change those numbers.
Source: Jalen Rose
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