For LaQuinton Ross, It's Go Time

By Kyle Rowland on November 7, 2012 at 10:00a
24 Comments

Ohio State, coming of a Final Four season, returns the most exciting player from last season’s team – Deshaun Thomas – and the fan favorite – Aaron Craft. Still, all the attention is turned to someone who played 35 minutes in nine games. 

Matta is ready to unleash Ross on the competition. 

LaQuinton Ross came to Ohio State a season ago as one of the top recruits in the nation. The 2011 Ohio State recruiting class was loaded with talent and many pointed to Ross as the crown jewel. The Mississippi native averaged 25 points and 11 rebounds per game as a senior at Life Center Academy in Burlington, N.J.

Ross enrolled at Ohio State during the summer of 2011, taking part in open gyms and other basketball-related activities. He made a name for himself with his bevy of offensive skills and was thought to be a candidate for the Buckeyes’ rotation.

But as classes were set to begin in September, it was ruled that Ross was an NCAA academic non-qualifier. He went back to Mississippi, where he continued training for the season and completed the necessary coursework to become eligible to play for Ohio State.

Ross returned to the team on Dec. 11 but never became a part of the rotation. At the time of his return, Ohio State was undefeated and ranked No. 2 in the country. Matta cited two-plus months away from the team as the main reason why Ross didn’t play many minutes. Ross didn’t return in tip-top shape, his handle of the offense was lacking and he wasn’t a very good defensive player.

The Buckeyes’ three-point shooting was a black hole last year, and when Ross returned, fans began clamoring for him. Then in his first career game, the first shot he put up – a three-pointer – hit nothing but net. But he played in only eight games the rest of the season, never more than seven minutes in a single game.

Ross finished the season making 5 of 15 shots from the field and 2 of 8 three-point attempts. He scored 18 total points.

“Last year was very frustrating,” Ross said. “You think you can help the team win, but I learned a lot from it. Being able to play on a Big Ten championship team – I got a ring for that and I got a Final Four ring – so it was a great experience.”

For the second straight summer, Ross’ offense was on full display inside the practice gym at Value City Arena. He also turned heads at the Kevin Durant Skills Academy in Chicago.

“LaQuinton Ross is his own person,” senior forward Evan Ravenel said. “He can do a lot of things people wish they could do. He’s 6-foot-8, he can handle the ball, he’s athletic, he can run, jump, pass, shoot – all of that.

“LaQuinton is a specialized scorer. He can score in so many different ways.”

Last Tuesday, in the Buckeyes’ exhibition game against Walsh, fans finally saw the level Ross can play at. In 21 minutes, he had 13 points, five rebounds and a block. Ross made 4 of 9 shots from the field, including two three-pointers, and was 3 of 4 from the free throw line.

Ross is a five-tool offensive player. 

In the starting lineup together, Ross and Thomas combined for 38 points, 11 rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot. That production led many to see why the duo wasn’t allowed to be on the same team in summer pickup games.

“We’re both scorers that can score inside and out,” Thomas said. “We’re a mismatch nightmare out there. It’s good to have another player like that on the side that can score within this offense.”

Thomas is the clear No. 1 scoring option for Ohio State this season. It’s a position he hasn’t been in since high school, when he could take over games with sheer talent. That isn’t the case in the Big Ten. With Jared Sullinger missing from the low post, Thomas is in need of another scorer to keep defenses honest and allow him to avoid double teams. 

He believes Ross’ presence, as well as Lenzelle Smith Jr., Sam Thompson and Aaron Craft will lead defenses to play more one-on-one.

Despite the hype surrounding himself, Ross believes the virtual one-year hiatus will help him because opponents will be unaware of his strengths and weaknesses. 

“They won’t be able to put me on the scouting report until late in the season,” he said. “They can’t go back and watch tape from last year. They have no idea.”

The limitations on offense might be few and far between, but even in one exhibition game, Ross’ defense was less than stellar. He looked confused at times on help defense and was caught out of position.

Matta has made his name on defense in Columbus, and that won’t change anytime soon. But Ross isn’t all offense and no defense. He’s bought into the team-first mentality and stated that selfishness is not a part of his game.

“(Ross) wouldn’t be here if he didn’t play great defense,” Ravenel said.

Ravenel isn’t the only teammate that has been impressed with Ross. Thomas thought the sophomore played like a seasoned veteran, playing within himself and not forcing difficult shots. That’s something that can be difficult for a player who is a natural scorer.

“For LaQuinton, this was a little bit of a test for him tonight, in terms of people in the stands, playing against somebody different,” Matta said. “The big thing is on the defensive end. We did not guard the ball effectively.”

It remains to be seen whether Ross starts Friday when Ohio State opens the season in Charleston, S.C., on the deck of the USS Yorktown against Marquette. Matta has tinkered with several different lineups and could go with Thompson, though he said he likes the idea of Thompson coming off the bench. 

The topsy-turvy past year and high expectations have left Ross unfazed, though, according to one teammate.

“I’ve seen him grow a lot that past year,” Craft said. “The experience of sitting out a year has really motivated him. I think sitting back and watching everything last will be a benefit.”

Said Ross: I’ve been dealing with pressure my whole life. I just have to go out there and perform.”

24 Comments

Comments

gobucks5413's picture

Thank goodness for the Basketball Bucks to take some of the sting out of not having Buckeye football to watch on Saturday. Great time of the year!

kgus's picture

*chills

tbdbitl

Earle's picture

"Shear talent": the ability to slice up opposing defenses.

Just say no to italics abuse.

DJRoss926's picture

I don't normally like using this term but I think it applies here: Ross has tremendous upside. He could very well be the piece this team needs to make a deep run in March.

bhartman13's picture

I agree and think Ross is the key for the Buckeyes making another run this season.  In order for the Buckeyes to compete for another B1G title and deep run in March Ross has to be a consistent scorer and give tOSU a 3 point shooting threat.  With most defenses keying in on Deshaun and possibly Craft it will be up to Ross to take advantage.  To me it is LaQuinton on offense and Amir on defense as the X factor guys this year!  Damn I can't wait for Friday night and then another game on Sunday to make up for no Buckeyes football or the Browns this weekend!

buckeyeEddie27's picture

This is gonna be a fun season to just watch guys develop.  Williams, Thompson, Ross, Scott even McDonald.  Tons and tons of talent with an open court so to speak in front of them.  Show us what ya got!

I know there's a game Saturday, and my ass will be there.

grcunning's picture

The article says he's 6'8", but the picture shows him standing next to coach Matta and they are the same size.  I didn't know that coach was that tall.

Kyle Rowland's picture

Picture is from a side angle, so it doesn't really show them evenly.

chicagobuckeye's picture

I agree, but look at the second picture he looks huge.

bhartman13's picture

Matta is a pretty tall dude himself and Ross is kind of leaning towards him.  Ross is a legit 6'8" forward.

carence's picture

Ross is by far the most interesting Buckeye I have to see. Scoonie Penn stated last year that he had a chance to practice with the Buckeyes and he said Ross is by far the best player on the team. 
I need to see this!

oregonianbuckeye's picture

Q has been in the dog house as of late with the coaches, and even commented at one practice that he felt like the coaches (specifically Dickerson) were picking on him. Love the guys talent, but he looks like he's afraid to make a mistake out there. When he catches the ball in transition, you can see him relax and just play. But when he's on defense or in an offensive set, he tenses up quite a bit. If they can get Q and Amir to improve this year, watch out in March. Those guys just ooze potential. On a side note, Q is a legit 6'8 (unlike Sam Thompson, who is listed at 6'7, and is probably closer to 6'5).

bhartman13's picture

Another side note, most scouts and college bball experts see Ross as a top 60 NBA prospect and a 2nd round pick in next years NBA draft.  I've seen some analysts say if he lives up to his potential and blows up then he is gone after this season and may even crack the 1st round.  It would be nice to have this type of talent around for the next couple years but if he leaves then that should mean the Buckeyes had another very strong year. 
I also read something yesterday saying Noah Vonleh may be a Buckeye lean because Deshaun is expected to go pro and the 5* stud could step right in to that spot and Matta can run the offense through him. 

AllDay028's picture

I really hope he lives up to that billing this year. He could be a nightmare for defenses.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

I'm excited to see how guys like Thomas, Ross, Williams/Ravenel mesh together. The roster has tons of individual talent and athleticism, but as team players, it might take them some time to figure out their roles, etc. I expect to see some disjointed offensive play and defensive breakdowns at times, but also some jaw-dropping acrobatics and some silky smooth offense.    

Oakland Buckeye's picture

Love this lineup with Ross starting, bwtween Lenzelle, Craft & Amir I think they make up for Q's defensive liabilities. Also like Ravs & Sam coming off bench with Scott.

Buckeye06's picture

Excuse my lack of bball knowledge so far for 2012 but our starters are set as?
PG: Craft
SG: Smith JR
SF: Ross/Thompson
PF: Thomas
C: Williams
Or is Ravenel going to start at PF with Thomas moving to SF then having Ross/Thompson on the bench?
 

OldColumbusTown's picture

You're first inclination is probably the most accurate (from what we all know).
Matta has said he likes the idea of Thompson off the bench, and the only other question is if Williams will truly start over Ravenel. 
There is zero chance that both Ravenel and Williams start, with Deshaun at the 3.

tennbuckeye19's picture

I could see Ravenel starting over Williams, experience over size. I'm curious to see the line-up come Friday night.

Ashtabula's picture

He is skilled, but not an extremely explosive athlete.  I fear he is our next Buford...talented, yet frustrating.  I'm concerned about his toughness and competiveness.  Craft's leadership will be truly tested by Q and others on this team.

Kalamazoo Steve's picture

Craft don't take no mess.  He will be Matta's voice on the floor, in Ross's ear whenever he's not busting his butt on either end of the floor.

Ashtabula's picture

I hope you're right.  But last year we heard about issues with players not practicing hard (didn't Matta kick them out of the gym a couple of times?) and Craft was their "leader" then as well.  Or, were Sullinger and Buford the problems?

buckeyeEddie27's picture

I've read the first line of your comment ten times.  Damn right he doesn't.

I know there's a game Saturday, and my ass will be there.

osubuckeye4life's picture

I can't wait to see LQRoss to play more minutes this year. 
This kid has tons of talent and I hope he puts it together.