BLOOMINGTON — As a freshman at Illinois Wesleyan, Brady Rose could not escape occasional murmurs of the exact variety Ron Rose had taken great pains to avoid.
Seeing playing time for his father’s basketball team fresh out of Bloomington High School, Brady was at times told that action came primarily as a result of favoritism.
“I did hear that sometimes,” Brady said. “It was discouraging a little bit. I just took it as a challenge. I’ve got to prove I belong out there.”
That proving process has since done nothing but accelerate to the point Brady Rose is averaging 22.4 points for a Titan team that leads the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin with three regular-season games remaining.
“My biggest thing as a freshman was I didn’t want to ruin his experience by me being here,” said Ron Rose, whose 17-5 team meets 11-12 Millikin in a 7 p.m. CCIW game Wednesday at Decatur.
“I didn’t want him to be Coach Rose’s son. I wanted him to be Brady Rose on campus. He had to find his way through that.”
Coach Rose gave freshman guard Rose just under 14 minutes of playing time per game. The Coach constantly worried that was too much as Brady averaged 4.5 points.
“I had a lot of angst. I was very anxious to make sure I did not give him more than he deserved,” Ron Rose said. “I honestly felt it would hurt his overall experience as a student and a player within our program. If I was going to err, I was going to err on him playing less.”
The elder Rose made former assistant coach Dave Feeney promise he would speak up if Feeney thought Brady was playing too much. Instead, Feeney and other Titan assistants urged Rose to play his son more.
“It was a big adjustment in terms of my conditioning and strength,” said Brady. “I didn’t feel like I was playing up to my potential yet. That’s when I felt the most pressure, but it hasn’t been bad since.”
Brady averaged 10.5 points as a sophomore but was limited to six games by a broken foot. That season will serve as a medical redshirt, meaning he will return for his final year of eligibility next season.
The 6-foot-3 Rose was a first-team all-CCIW selection last season while scoring at a 15.7 clip and is a shoo-in to repeat this year.
Proving equally adept at either point guard or shooting guard depending on which other Titans are in the game, Brady joins Wheaton’s Aston Francis as frontrunners for the league’s Most Outstanding Player award.
“As much as I played it conservative, I think he did to a degree as well,” Ron Rose said. “It’s been easier this year because he’s already established. He’s not fighting any of the other stuff. He has the confidence and credibility that he can play and be himself.”
Brady has become the 41st player in school history to surpass the 1,000 point milestone and is on pace to become only the second Titan this century (Zach Freeman in 2006-07 was the other) to average 20 points.
This season, the field goal percentage has jumped from .468 in 2016-17 to .480 with 3-point accuracy up from .376 to .403 while handing out 21 more assists than turnovers committed.
“I think it’s my conditioning,” Brady said. “The shots before might have been tired shots (late in games). Now there is energy and they’re strong shots. The more I’ve been able to develop physically, the higher quality the tougher shots become in my mind.”
Coach Rose also has witnessed his son more at ease as a point guard after playing exclusively off the ball until last season.
“He’s really let the game come to him,” said Ron, a former IWU guard himself from 1984-88. “He’s aggressive by nature. Now he’s understanding more how to run a team and where his opportunities might come.”
CCIW race: At 10-3 in league play, the Titans have all but clinched a top four spot that would qualify IWU for the CCIW Tournament.
Augustana (10-4), North Central (9-4) and Wheaton (9-4) also remain in contention for the regular-season championship.