The story of LaQuinton Ross might be the most intriguing among the current group of Buckeye ballers. Finally earning playing time in Ohio State's lineup, Ross came on strong towards the end of his sophomore season. He already declared he would return for his junior year (in case you were concerned he was a flight risk). What can we expect out of him going forward?
Let's start by looking back on how his 2012-2013 season transpired.
Stat line: 8.3 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 0.5 ASG, 0.3 BPG, 0.4 SPG. Shot 47 percent from the field, 39 percent from beyond the arc. Played 16.9 minutes per game.
Best games: Statistically Ross' best game of the year came against the mighty Northern Kentucky Norse (Ed. Note: RIP, Matt Brown). He scored a career-high 22 points and hauled in eight boards in Ohio State's 70-43 rout. Crushing a vastly inferior opponent isn't what you want to be remembered for, though.
The NCAA Tournament was the shining moment of Ross' resume to this point. He averaged 17.6 points per game, excluding his seven-point performance in the Buckeyes' easy opening-round win. Ross took over at times, stepping up when his team desperately needed a bucket.
His game against Arizona might be considered the best solely based on his game-winning three-point dagger with just seconds remaining.
Worst games: Ohio State's 71-49 loss to Wisconsin in mid-February was the low point of the season for the team. Ross finished 1-for-7 from the field and committed three turnovers in his 16 minutes on the court. He couldn't get anything going that day. The entire team would like to forget that day, although it did lead to an 11-game winning streak.
A "poor performance" from Ross was more like a "he didn't really show up" kind of game. He just blended in at times. His six turnovers and 0-for-4 three-point shooting against Winthrop merited an honorable mention.
The Skinny: After watching his play throughout the regular season, Ross appeared timid at times, often unwilling to attack. Some spark ignited in his mind once the tournament began, though. He was aggressive. He was confident. He wasn't deterred by missed shots.
Around the four-minute mark in the second half against Arizona, Ross drove the lane and missed a layup that we would expect him to finish. The next possession? Another missed layup by Ross. But, right when he made everyone say, "OK, LaQuinton, enough of this," he penetrated the lane again and scored with a reversal layup, a shot more difficult than his two previous attempts. That's the confidence in pressure situations Thad Matta wants to see.
His improvement defensively may be overshadowed by the offensive output. Ross made his way into the lineup by becoming a better defender and understanding Matta's concepts. He was one of the most coveted prospects early in high school. Are we finally seeing his potential rise to the occasion?
The Prognosis: Deshaun Thomas is gone. I'll give you a few moments to wipe away the tears. The Buckeyes are left with a glaring void in the scoring department. Ross has to be the one to step up in 2013-2014. It's not "hopefully he does well" when the season rolls around. He HAS to score. A star was born in the postseason. The last few years of his life haven't panned out like he envisioned. Ross dropped down recruiting rankings in high school, then faced academic issues, then became frustrated as a benchwarmer. Now, it's finally his turn in the spotlight.
Get that man the ball next year.