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Derrick Rose back in Englewood, christens refurbished Murray Park

Derrick Rose takes mic speak students Murray Park basketball court W. 73rd St. S. Hermitage Ave. during an event commemorate

Derrick Rose takes the mic to speak to students at the Murray Park basketball court, W. 73rd St. and S. Hermitage Ave., during an event to commemorate the renovation of Murray Park Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011, in Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: November 11, 2011 4:03PM

Chicago Police blocked the streets surrounding Murray Park and private security guards wrapped in bulletproof vests provided extra muscle as Englewood’s All-Star — NBA MVP Derrick Rose — returned Tuesday to the basketball court where he practiced tirelessly as a boy, dreaming one day that he’d be as big as Michael Jordan.

“If it was up to me I wouldn’t have no security up here because I feel comfortable. I don’t need it,” the 22-year-old Bulls superstar said. “You have some people that look at you different, but I’m still ‘Pooh’ from the neighborhood to them. So, I’m not worried about it.”

Rose waved to some of his former neighbors who watched from behind the park fence during the public unveiling of the once-crumbling court’s $20,000 makeover, paid for by Rose-endorsed companies — PowerAde and Wilson Sporting Goods, among them. Wobbly backboards and bent rims were replaced with new hoops. The crumbling concrete court was resurfaced and restriped with fresh paint. Crews cut down dead trees and installed player benches on the sidelines as part of the Derrick Rose Renovation Project.

“You’re all the people who keep me going every day. Show me love,” Rose said. “It’s emotional just being here knowing where I came from — two blocks away from here. If it wasn’t for you all I wouldn’t be here. So, I want to be here for you.”

Rose, dressed in faded black jeans, a gray sweat shirt and fancy designer sneakers, told kids from Randolph School, his elementary school alma mater, that when he was growing up the court was his oasis from neighborhood violence. It is where his impossible basketball dream was born and where he pushed himself — sometimes playing 16 hours a day — to make it a reality. Standing humbly at center court, Rose asked the neighborhood kids to let his experiences at Murray Park be their inspiration.

“I know I made it. I know that when you look at me you probably don’t see yourself making it that far,” Rose said. “I’m here to tell you that you can make it this far. Hopefully, when you look at me no matter what you’re doing — if you want to be a basketball player, a teacher, no matter what it is — just go out there and dedicate your life to it . . . and you’ll be able to get it.”

Rose posed for pictures and fist-bumped grade-schoolers, who left the park with wide smiles and new basketballs.

Rose took a bounce-pass assist from Randolph small forward Mikyle Cross and sank the court’s “inaugural lay-up.”

“That felt good. I can’t believe it. He’s one of the best players in the NBA,” said Mikyle, 13, after dishing the ball to his favorite player. “I live right on the next block. I shoot here a lot. I’m all about hard work so I can be just like him someday.”

For neighbor Cherri Carter, 51, whose nephew grew up playing at Murray Park with Rose, the court rehab stands as a reminder that good things do happen, even in a neighborhood best known for its crushing poverty and senseless shootings.

“In the mornings kids play out there and I hear them say, ‘Look, I’m like Derrick.’ They’re looking up to something good, something positive,” Carter said. “It’s bad and good here. It’s Englewood. But I think we have more good than bad. At least I’m trying to have faith.”

Rose said he too hopes to one day see an Englewood revival.

“Hopefully, I can change that . . . This is only the base. You never know in a couple years what not only me, but some other people can do to this neighborhood. I’m just looking to change it,” Rose said. “You look at Englewood as a bad neighborhood, but to us — it’s everything to us.”

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