Daniel Chi / Asst. photo editor
Since LaQuinton Ross graduated from Life Center Academy in Burlington, N.J., and declared that he would play for coach Thad Matta’s Ohio State basketball team, the sophomore forward has had considerable struggles.
From missing games due to NCAA academic ineligibility to struggling on the court, to having a relationship with that Matta described as “unique” in terms of communication, it’s been an up-and-down ride for Ross, nicknamed “Q” by his coaches and teammates.
The 2012 season, though, is seeing Ross start to make good on his potential.
After averaging a meager two points per game along with 3.9 minutes per contest last season, Ross is averaging 9.3 points per game this year, showing flashes of why he was named All-New Jersey and All-city in his senior year of high school.
Just six games into this season, Ross seemed to best demonstrate his offensive prowess in his latest game against Northern Kentucky Saturday.
In then-No. 4-ranked OSU’s 70-43 win, Ross had a career-high outing with 22 points and snatched eight rebounds in 29 minutes of action. He shot 8-12 overall from the field, 3-6 from the 3-point line and 3-3 on free throws.
Matta said he had a feeling that Ross would explode in this particular game.
“He had a great practice (Friday) and I just felt like he was going to have a really good game today,” Matta said Saturday. “He was very efficient, and the more he plays, the more overall confidence he gains.”
Coach Dave Bezold of Northern Kentucky said he knew coming into this game that someone would hit shots.
“We figured someone would make shots, we didn’t know which one,” Bezold said. “To his credit, he stepped up. We couldn’t extend pressure to everyone. We gave up the jump shot. We didn’t take away his confidence by breaking his rhythm.”
Junior forward Deshaun Thomas emphasized Ross’ importance on the court.
“It’s going to help us a lot, having guys like (sophomore guard) Shannon (Scott) and ‘Q’ come off the bench,” Thomas said. “Teams are going to double team me a lot, and having them there to step up is what we need.”
Ross said having a performance like that was great, but he was just happy that his hard work got him the playing time he wanted.
In a 73-68 loss at No. 2 Duke, Matta opted to play Ross 11 minutes, a contest that saw the sophomore notch nine points. After the loss, Matta told reporters he regretted not giving Ross more action on the court.
“It was great having more playing time tonight,” Ross said. “Our coaches told me to shoot more and get more comfortable with my footwork, and that’s what I did.”
For example, after making a steal, junior point guard Aaron Craft dribbled up the court before firing a pass to Ross against Northern Kentucky. Ross lined up his feet toward the basket, raised up in one motion for the 3-pointer, and his hand followed through the shot until the basket swished.
Matta said Ross reminds him of Thomas, who was a preseason All-American selection.
“No question about it, and we’ve talked about that,” Matta said. “I told Deshaun yesterday to make sure he got with him and say, ‘Hey, you’re kind of in the same position I am in. ‘Q,’ in essence, is a freshman.”
While there’s no telling if Ross will be inserted into the Buckeyes’ starting lineup, Ross might be on his way to earning more and more time on the court in Matta’s fluid rotation.
“Coach Matta told us he is not going to have a core five or six group of guys he will play,” Ross said. “It is going to be a lot of in-and-out this year. Our team is versatile, so we have the option to have more players play.”
Ross and the Buckeyes will return to non-conference action on Saturday against Long Beach State at the Schottenstein Center with a scheduled noon tip-off.