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Former NBA player facing drug charge
Last Edited: Wednesday, 02 May 2007, 4:42 AM EDT
Created: Wednesday, 02 May 2007, 4:33 AM EDT
BRADENTON - Clifford Rozier once earned a hefty paycheck playing basketball in front of capacity crowds in the National Basketball Association.
On Monday the 34-year-old former first-round draft pick was arrested by Bradenton Police for selling cocaine as his post-NBA life continued to spiral out of control. According to a BPD report a patrol officer saw Rozier engage in what appeared some sort of transaction involving cash with another man in the 1000 block of 5th St. West. He immediately left the area and was spotted a few streets away involved in a similar transaction with another man.
When the pair walked into an area marked with no trespassing signs the BPD officer approached and discovered several pieces of crack cocaine in the other man's hand. Rozier was charged with one count of distributing cocaine and booked into the Manatee County Jail, a long way from where the former Bradenton Southeast High School basketball star was a little more than a decade ago.
In 1994, following his junior season at the University of Louisville, the Golden State Warriors made the 6-11 Rozier their top selection in the NBA draft. He still owns a team record for rebounds in a game with 21, a feat he accomplished as a rookie when he averaged a career best 7.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.
Three years later he was out of the league following short stints with the Orlando Magic, Toronto Raptors and Minnesota Timberwolves. Rozier also played in the now defunct Continental Basketball Association before returned to Bradenton for good in 1999. Since that time he's been arrested more than a handful of times on a variety of charges including petty theft, domestic battery and burglary.
By Timothy O'Hara and Tom Balog
When Clifford Rozier graduated from Southeast
High School in 1990, the 6-foot 11-inch teen was a
hot basketball commodity, sought after by major college
programs eager to have
Florida's "Mr. Basketball."
Now Rozier is being
pursued again, this time by
law officers seeking to arrest
him on charges that he stole
an off-duty deputy's personal
Rozier's path from fame and
a multi-million dollar NBA
contract to Manatee County
fugitive is an indirect one,
marked by incredible highs,
questionable choices, and a
pro career that just never
quite took off.
Friends and former
associates say they just
aren't certain whether there
was one decision, one turning point, that led Rozier
out of the spotlight, back home to Manatee County
and into trouble.
He came home in 1997, after he was cut by the
Minnesota Timberwolves, after a tryout with the New
York Knicks proved fruitless. He got married, then
divorced. He was arrested on charges of assaulting
his mother, but the case was dropped.
Recently, friends spotted him riding around
Palmetto on his bicycle.
Despite what happened in the past, his life hit a new
low last week. On March 28, Rozier argued with his
brother outside a Shell gas station on 55th Avenue
East in Bradenton. Employees inside the station
called 911 for help. By the time deputies arrived,
Rozier had run away.
His brother, Cykobie, pointed out to deputies a car
left behind at the station, one he thought belonged to
Rozier. Detectives checked the license plate. It had
been reported stolen by a Manatee County sheriff's
deputy from his apartment on 75th Street West.
Rozier was, and to some degree still is, the pride of
Southeast High School basketball. He could shoot,
run the floor and rebound. He scored 2,521 points
and had 1,104 rebounds in three high school
seasons. Coaches and media statewide named him
Florida's "Mr. Basketball."
In 1990, he signed with the University of North
Carolina, a college basketball dynasty, and he
played in the Final Four.
But after just one season, he transferred to the
University of Louisville. Some of his associates
believe that was his first misstep.
North Carolina is known for instilling players with the
discipline needed to be successful in college and
the NBA; Louisville did not enjoy the same
"He got to take the easy way out and the easy road
to the place where he went and this is what it led to,"
his former high school coach, Bob Carroll, said. "He
didn't go to class at Louisville, period. And he was
still eligible (to play) and still an All-American."
He was twice selected Metro Conference Player of
the Year. He set a national collegiate record in a
game against Eastern Kentucky, sinking 15 baskets
from the field without missing and scoring 32 points.
He was a first team All-American, the first Louisville
junior to achieve that honor in a decade.
"He was dominating in college," said Kenny Klein,
who has been a sports information director for 18
years at Louisville. "He was as good a rebounder as
I've seen. He was relentless in his pursuit of the ball."
Rozier left college after his junior year. He was the
Golden State Warriors' first-round draft pick,
selected 16th overall. He would receive a reported
$4 million contract.
His 1995 rookie season would be his best. He
averaged 6 points, 7.4 rebounds and 22.6 minutes
on the court for each game. He grabbed 21
rebounds against Houston, the most by a Warrior
rookie in 14 years.
"I think Clifford would have been a good pro player,"
Klein said. "In the pros, they look at the bodies and
he had it. He had the strength. He was ferocious in
his pursuit of the ball and he was a good shooter."
But the dominance Rozier enjoyed in high school
and college eluded him in the pros. In 1996, the
Warriors traded him to the Orlando Magic. The
Magic soon cut him. He played briefly with the
Toronto Raptors and Minnesota Timberwolves. He
was cut by the Timberwolves in 1997. He tried out
with the New York Knicks, but didn't make the team.
He returned to Manatee County.
He married in 1997. He and his wife, Trina,
separated about six months later. They divorced in
2000. According to the divorce case file, he suffered
from an unspecified mental illness and received
$1,700 a month in disability payments from the NBA.
In August 1998, he was accused of assaulting his
mother and was arrested. Prosecutors declined to
"He has been sick for awhile and he has had his
problems," his mother Dianne said Wednesday. She
did not comment any further about her son's current
problems with the law.
In a last ditch effort to stay in the game, Rozier tried
out with the United States Basketball League's
Bradenton Sun Dogs. He made the team but soon
left to try out with the Seattle Supersonics.
Yet the aging Rozier may have been no match for
younger, hungrier players, who regard that league's
teams as stepping stones to the NBA or Continental
"If you're talking basketball, there is no future (for
Rozier). That's long gone," said Carroll, Rozier's
former high school basketball coach. "Survival is all
he has left. There's no comeback, no CBA."
Rozier has all but vanished from the lives of those
who were once close to him. He's had virtually no
contact with Carroll since he graduated from
Southeast more than 10 years ago.
Carroll remembers Rozier as a fairly good student
and dedicated player.
"My association with him was good the whole time. I
never had to deal with him having trouble with
drinking, drugs, referrals or the law," Carroll said.
"There's probably not any athletes, not any good
ones, that went through Southeast with that clean of
a record. He did everything asked of him and more
and he never gave me a bit of trouble.
"I can wrap it up in one word. It's very sad, just sad."