Terry Rozier's hard-fought journey to the NBA

In just over a week, Terry Rozier will begin his first season in the NBA as a member of the Boston Celtics. Rozier was drafted 16th overall this past year by the Celtics and he has shown in both the Summer League and in Preseason play that he definitely belongs.

Recently, Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe wrote a story on Terry Rozier's journey to the NBA and what he endured growing up in Ohio. The story details the struggles of growing up in Youngstown, Ohio and how having his father in prison affected Rozier's life:

When young Terry was born on March 17, 1994, his father, just 18 years old, was there to hold him. Less than two months later he was arrested for aggravated robbery, and was imprisoned for the first eight years of his son’s life.

Gina, left to raise young Terry with the help of her mother, dropped out of high school and passed a GED test. She worked at Kentucky Fried Chicken and lived off of welfare checks, all while trying to rein in her mischievous son.

From the beginning, Terry Rozier had to live a life without his father around. He was raised by his mother and grandmother and often shuttled back and forth between Youngstown and Cleveland, Ohio. Eventually, when his father was released from prison, Terry and his dad made up for lost time by immediately bonding together. It was in 2003, where Terry Rozier finally felt that the void in his life was filled by his father being there with him. Unfortunately, the happy times wouldn't last as Rozier's father was sent back to prison a few months later:

On July 27, 2003, Rozier Sr. and three friends lured a couple to a home to purchase car rims, intending to rob them. When one of the victims got into a struggle with one of the attackers holding him at gunpoint, the gun discharged, killing one of Rozier’s accomplices, a 17-year-old boy.

Since a person was killed while a crime was committed, Rozier and the two surviving accomplices were charged with murder. They pled guilty to kidnapping and robbery and a reduced charge of involuntary manslaughter, and in 2005 Rozier was sentenced to 13 years in prison.

After losing his father for a second time, Terry Rozier moved back to live with his grandmother and it was in Cleveland where he finally began to realize his basketball dreams.

During middle school and high school, the young star spent countless hours in the gym working on his basketball skills. He immediately started for his high school's varsity team in his freshman year. Rozier eventually received an offer from Louisville to play for them but couldn't enroll because of his academics. After his senior year, he spent one year at Hargrave Military Academy to improve his grades. The star gave a lot of credit to the school for helping him grow as a person:

“Hargrave made me mature,” Rozier said. “It made me grow up, and I needed that.”

Terry Rozier then spent two years at Louisville and became one of the top prospects in the 2015 NBA Draft. In his workouts for the Celtics, the Louisville guard immediately stood out to the team because of his dominance in drills. Celtics co-owner Stephen Pagliuca spoke on what impressed him:
“We have one drill where a ball-handler has to dribble upcourt against two defenders,” Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca said. “Terry was the only guy I’ve seen in about 10 years of doing it who just went through two guys like they weren’t even there.”

On NBA Draft night, Rozier gathered in Cleveland with his family at his draft party and celebrated when he was finally chosen by the Boston Celtics at 16th overall.

Fortunately for Terry Rozier, he kept in constant contact with his father in prison by visiting him. With his father due to be released from prison in 2018, Rozier is looking forward to the day when his father can come watch him play in an NBA game.

In an interview with Basketball Insiders, Rozier spoke about what motivates him:

“I’ve seen too much (failure), “he said, “You want to be the reason why your family smiles. You want to change up everything.”

“I’ve been motivated since I was young and I don’t think that’s ever going to stop,” Rozier said. “That’s what I learned to get me through and get me to this point, so why change?”

With a son of his own now, Rozier understands what it means to be a family man. It's great to see that he's working extremely hard not only on his basketball skills, but also on being there for his family. For Celtics fans, it should be tremendously encouraging to know that they have a guy like Terry Rozier on the roster. Given what he went through growing up, he is not only physically tough but he's also mentally strong as well. It's great to have someone on the team who is willing to do whatever it takes to win and to get better in the process, which is exactly what Celtics fans have in Terry Rozier.

As the season approaches, we're all thrilled to see what Terry Rozier will bring to the table. Rozier had to fight through a lot of adversity in his life to get to this point and his determination points to him becoming a special player. It's going to be a privilege to watch Rozier play and I think I speak for all Celtics fans when I say, I'm rooting for him to succeed.

Photo Credits:
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
David Maxwell/Boston Globe

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