LaQuinton Ross Expects Buckeyes to be Faster, More Athletic
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — After two strong seasons, and a Final Four finish this past year, Jared Sullinger is in the NBA.
Photo by Jim Davidson
His Ohio State career, albeit brief, lasted longer than most expected when he arrived on campus two years ago. While it may have cost him money in the short term, Sullinger proved not everyone is in an immediate hurry to get to the next level.
Sullinger’s decision to return for his sophomore season made the Buckeyes a national championship contender a year ago. It also changed the way OSU head coach Thad Matta approached each and every game.
His star big man was the focus on a nightly basis, with guys like Deshaun Thomas and William Buford playing secondary roles to the first-team All-American in the paint. Without Sullinger, the Buckeyes could play a more wide-open style of basketball in 2012-13.
At least that’s how sophomore LaQuinton Ross sees it.
“We came close last year and some people are already counting us out,” Ross recently told NBCSports.com.
“But we’re faster and more athletic than we were last year.”
Ohio State’s sophomore wing recently appeared as a counselor at the LeBron James Skills Academy in Las Vegas. Before that, he was a participant at the Kevin Durant Skill Academy in Chicago, and a number of scouts are predicting a big year out of the former four-star prospect.
“Ross is a serious breakout candidate,” the folks at ProBasketballDraft.com told The-Ozone.
“If Thad Matta can't find time for him this year, serious questions should be raised.”
Ross was an elite scorer in high school—first at Murrah High School in Mississippi, then Life Center Academy in New Jersey. At 6-8, Ross showed an ability to shoot from deep as well as slash to the basket, but he didn’t play much as a freshman after being ruled an academic non-qualifier before the season.
“I practiced two times before having to go back home,” Ross told NBC Sports over the weekend.
“It definitely helps me out (to have a full off-season of work).”
He played in only nine games after returning to the team in December, scoring 18 points on 15 shots. He showed an ability to put the ball on the floor, but what Ross really brings to the Buckeyes is his ability to spread the floor.
“The whole city (of Columbus) has been waiting to see what I can do,” remarked Ross, who was often the topic of conversation—especially on the radio airwaves—whenever the Buckeyes struggled to shoot the ball last season.
With starters Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith and Deshaun Thomas back from last season, the Buckeyes have the foundation of a Big Ten championship-caliber team. They will need a lot more if they are going to make another deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
If Ross can live up to the hype, it should help Ohio State offset the 32 points per game they lost in Sullinger and Buford. If the Buckeyes plan to run more than they did in 2011-12, that would likely coincide with more playing time for sophomore Shannon Scott and Sam Thompson.
Craft hinted over the weekend he could see more time on the court with Scott this season. The point guard out of Georgia averaged over 10 minutes per game off the bench for Matta last season, but he and Thompson provided very little scoring.
Scott played more minutes late in the season and in the tournament than he had early on, but he never found his jump shot—shooting just 28 percent from the floor and less than 10 percent from behind the arc.
Ohio State will need better production from Scott, and Thompson, a high-flying dunker who averaged 2.1 points per game off the bench last season.
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