After a freshman year that saw little to no action, LaQuinton Ross got an opportunity to shine last season with the departure of Jared Sullinger. He turned that opportunity into an promising performance while backing up Sam Thompson. He provided an explosive scoring threat fresh off the bench to replace Thompson’s explosive scoring threat, a nice gimmick to have late in conference play.
Hometown: Jackson, Mississippi
High School: Life Center Academy
Position: Forward (3/4)
As a four star recruit (by Scout.com), Ross was highly recruited out of high school, picking up offers from names such as Tennessee, Florida, Mississippi, and Syracuse. He was the 16th ranked player at his position, three spots behind Sam Thompson, and the 53rd ranked player in the ESPNU 150.
Two seasons ago he played sparingly for the Buckeyes, often only seeing the court late in blowout games. Those few moments we got to see were none-the-less extremely exciting. His very first shot on the floor was a three pointer attempt, and he seemed to almost play to the crowd – who were more than happy to cheer him on.
Last season, his game time increased dramatically. As you’ll see in his stats below, he began to play more than 16 minutes a game, and saw time in every single game for the Buckeyes. His shooting percentages dramatically improved, as did his rebounding (though, you need to do a little math to make it obvious), and he became an integral part of the team dynamic.
Stats are courtesy of Buckeyesbeat.
LaQuinton Ross is an extraordinarily talented player. He displays tremendous shooting skills at short, mid, and long ranges and can absolutely take over a game offensively. He’s capable in both the half-court offense and in transition and is incredibly athletic, displaying impressive finishes above the rim. His size gives him a unique advantage over most “3s”, and he can easily post smaller defenders. Lastly, his ball-handling in the open court is good, and he is a skilled passer who readily dishes to an open teammate if the scoring opportunity isn’t available.
Things to Work on:
There are two key things that jump out as points of emphasis for Ross.
The first is his dribbling. While he has good ball-handling skills, he has a tendency to get into a rush in the fast break. On several occasions last season we saw him out-dribble himself and his team into a poor turnover. I understand that he wants to make a big play, and he should be capable of doing that. That said, he needs to keep his head on a swivel and know where the defenders are. More importantly, he needs to be able to recognize when he can’t do it on his own and needs to dish it to a teammate.
Secondly he has to work on his assist numbers. This isn’t a critical detail considering the position he plays, but you don’t want to turn into a black-hole in the center (get it? The ball goes in and never comes out again). One of the things that made Jared Sullinger such a great front-court player is that he was ready to dish the ball back out for a three-pointer or a reset. Sullinger still averaged over an assist per game during his career – it was actually surprising that it was that low. That should be something Ross should strive for.
Role for the Team:
With the departure of DeShaun Thomas, LaQuinton Ross will certainly find himself with a lot more playing time this season. He needs to take advantage of it and replace Thomas’s scoring in a big way. Whether he can do that or not remains to be seen.
It’s also not clear what position he might play. Both he and Sam Thompson split time at the 3 (though occasionally they saw action at the 4 when appropriate) last season. With Thomas gone, one might expect that Ross would take over at the 4, considering his 6-8 height is appropriate to the position. But does he have the body type to bang down low with some of the Big Ten’s big Power Forwards at only 220 pounds? That might be something we’ll have to wait and see.
The other big question is what will happen with Marc Loving, a stud Power Forward that joined the team this season. Loving could end up playing the 5 if Amir Williams and Trey McDonald don’t produce, but he’s more naturally a 4. Will that limit the time Ross can see on the floor? I have a hard time believing a player with the talent and experience that Ross possesses won’t get plenty of playing time, but there are a lot of potential weapons to distribute the ball to down low.
You may hear many comparisons of Ross to former Buckeye Evan Turner. Given his scouting report, that should come as no surprise. Even his weaknesses, such as his motor not going 100%, are right in line with Turner when he arrived at Ohio State. That said, don’t expect Ross to be another Naismith trophy winner – that’s simply an unfair level of expectation for a young player.
The only person that can answer these questions is Ross himself. If he has put in the time in the offseason, and worked hard to improve both his skill set – especially defensive – and his ability to work in the team dynamic, he’s going to be a big star for this team this season.