Ross Set for December Return
Buckeyes Anxious to See How “Q” Will Fit
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Thad Matta had to fight his smile Friday when asked about the return of 2011 freshman LaQuinton Ross.
For the first time in months, Matta finally has something to smile about, other than his No. 2-ranked Buckeyes that is.
After enrolling at Ohio State back in June, Ross had been at home in Jackson, Miss. since being ruled an academic non-qualifier by the NCAA. After retaking the SAT and a pair of online classes, the 6-8 wing has officially been cleared to rejoin the Buckeyes on De. 9.
“I think he’s very capable of coming in here and adding to this team,” sophomore Lenzelle Smith Jr. said.
“ ‘Q’ is long for his size and position. He can handle the ball very well. Also I know he can shoot the ball very well, too. It’s going to be hard for other teams to match up against him. ... I think if he comes in here with the right attitude he’ll make this program better and himself.”
The attitude part is going to be essential for Ross, who is joining one of the best college basketball teams in the country. Without him, the Buckeyes have started the year 7-0 with a pair of wins over top-10 teams.
They knocked off No. 8 Florida 81-74 back on Nov. 15 and smashed No. 3-ranked Duke 85-63 in Columbus on Tuesday night.
“As I told him, the best thing you can possibly do is come in here and look at this team and say, ‘How do I help it?,’ ” Matta said.
“It’s not, ‘How do we help you?’ You’ll learn a lot quicker if you have that mindset.”
Ross was considered to be one of the best pure scorers in the class of 2011 and is one of the rare freshmen with an ability to take over a game on the offensive end. Of course that’s not exactly what this Ohio State team needs.
They already have two premier scorers in Jared Sullinger and William Buford, along with guys like Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas, who are capable of scoring 20 points on a given night.
“He’s not going to come in and change our team completely,” said Craft, who had one of the best games of his young career against the Blue Devils.
“He’s going to come in and accent our team very well. He’s going to find his niche soon enough. He’ll help us become the best basketball team we can be.”
That alone is a scary thought, considering how good the Buckeyes have been without him. If there is anything they have lacked, however, it’s a consistent outside threat to compliment Buford at the offensive end.
“I think he had a nice looking stroke when I saw it during the recruiting process and the two times we got to see him work out,” Matta said.
“It’s going to take time. I’m not expecting a miracle right out of the gate.”
Ross will likely make the trip to Kansas with the Buckeyes on Dec. 10, but Matta said he is unlikely to see the court considered he will not have practiced with the team since the summer. Even when he was in Columbus, he did not get much time with the coaches.
“ ‘Q’ only worked out with us twice,” Matta added.
“The first two workouts and that was more of the introduction, everybody learning each others names.”
He did, however, get a chance to work out with the players over the summer, which is why they don’t see his return as an intrusion upon what they already have going at Ohio State.
“One of the best things about LaQuinton is he’s a good person,” Craft said.
“He’s a good guy to have around. He fit right in with us in the summer.”
His ability to score from anywhere on the floor could provide the Buckeyes with instant offense off the bench, but he will have to pay his dues in practice and earn every minute at the defensive end of the floor if he is going to take minutes away from guys like Smith, Jordan Sibert, Sam Thompson and J.D. Weatherspoon.
“I definitely think his offensive game is one of the better ones we had in the freshman class,” Craft said.
“I think that’s something we can add to our arsenal. If he’s willing to come in and pay his dues and understand that it’s going to be a process to learn our plays, learn our defensive schemes and things like that. He can definitely come in and score the ball.”
If Ross can find that niche Craft spoke of, this team could be scary good heading into March.
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