Before Terry Rozier turned himself into the breakout star of the 2018 playoffs, filling in for point guard Kyrie Irving (who went down due to surgery on his left knee in early March) Rozier was the largely unknown understudy. The days of anonymity—just ask Eric Bledsoe—are over for the third-year guard. Rozier has fit in comfortably into his role as playoff hero. The Milwaukee Bucks got familiarized with “Scary Terry” over the seven games—combining for 46 points in Game 1 and Game 2 and a 29-point clincher game and who can forget the unforgettable petty feud and blossoming friendship he had with the Bledsoes. the former being Bucks’ Eric and the latter former New England Patriots quarterback Drew.
Rozier is currently averaging 18.3 PPG fin the postseason, compared to his 5.6 a year ago and a huge jump from a 11.5 regular season that was considered a big step forward. Against the Sixers, whom the Celtics have a comfortable 3-1 advantage in the semifinals, he’s averaging 19.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5 assists.
Beginning when Irving went down, Rozier has risen to the challenge of the starting spot and additional minutes. On offense, he brings some of that attacking mentality and three-point stroke that Irving provided, while maintaining his edge as a defensive irritant. As a decision-maker, Rozier has come a long way from his days as a raw talent out of Louisville as the team’s first-round (No. 16) pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. He no longer rushes his shots or gets down when they’re not going down and he’s developed a awareness of when to pass and shoot, something he struggled with as a rookie.
We recently sat down with Rozier to talk about his playoff rise, the scandal that rocked Louisville and whether or not college players should be compensated.
You’ve spent some time in the G League (with the Maine Red Claws) during your rookie season. How did The G League help you grow as a person and as a player?
It humbled me a lot. It’s a lot different from the NBA in terms of everyday living and travel. I remember I didn’t have a drink of water when I needed it and things like that. It humbles you and it makes sure that you get back on your grind. If it wasn’t for The G League I don’t think I would have the confidence to go out there and play this big role I’ve been given due to injuries that have affected our team.
Recently talks have emerged about one-and-done being abolished and high school players being able to once again be eligible for the NBA Draft. Recently, Darius Bazley became the first high school player to enter the G League. Do you see the G League as a viable feeder system for the NBA?
I think so, just so they won’t have to deal with a lot of the things that’s going on and some of the politics that come with being a college athlete. Some people might look at it as an easier route for them to get where they wanna go.
What do you think about the sanctions the NCAA handed down to Louisville?
I think they’re just basically trying to prove a point to scare other programs, but I think they did a little too much.
You arrived the year after Louisville won the championship, but what did that championship mean to the community?
I got to Louisville that summer so I got to cherish that moment with a few of the guys, that banner meant a lot to that city, and to the fans, and most importantly to the group. Obviously, they took the banner away, but as Donovan Mitchell said on Twitter: You can’t take away all the hard nights and all the hard work that they put in, and all the togetherness that they shared, the memories will always be there no matter what.
Have you spoken to former coach Rick Pitino since all these allegations came to the surface?
No, I haven’t talked to him, I’m focused on The Celtics right now, but I wish him the best of luck and I hope everything works out for him.
What type of impact has he made in your life?
He’s made a huge impact on my career and my life, he’s like a father figure to me on and off the court. He’s a great guy who’s going to challenge you every day, one of my favorite coaches that I ever played for. Just to see things happen the way they did was a tough pill to swallow.
What are your thoughts about some players allegedly receiving money?
You’re dealing with a lot of kids that come from nothing. It’s tough for people to turn that down [after] the stuff they been through and things like that. I’m not going to speak on it too much, but if you take a kid who didn’t have anything, and they see a little money, it’s hard for them to turn that down for sure.
Do you think this whole situation could’ve been avoided if college athletes are somehow compensated?
Oh yeah, they need to do something about it. They’re making all that money for the programs, it’s so much money. You have to ask yourself what are they doing with it because the players aren’t getting what they deserve. We practice two-and-a-half hours and you have to attend class every day—which is being a student athlete. But with the billions that the players generate, I feel like the players should get paid. I wish I could put a dollar [number] on a fair amount, but I can’t.