"I think [the fans] have been waiting to see what I can do," junior power forward LaQuinton Ross told reporters at Ohio State's preseason interview day recently. "There's been a buzz about me since I came out of high school, and the end of last year I gave them something to look forward to once again."
Ross, who was a 4.5 star recruit out of high school, certainly does carry significant potential, and showed flashes of greatness during the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Ross should step into the starting role left vacant by DeShaun Thomas' departure.
Previous Season Stats: 8.3 PPG .5 APG 2.9 RPG .4 SPG 16.9 MPG 46.8% FG%
A look back:
Throughout much of the 2012 season, LaQuinton Ross was reliable enough in a limited role, averaging 8.3 points per game and 2.9 rebounds per game in just under 17 minutes per game. He had a few standout performances in the regular season, however, that provided glimpses of his true potential. Ross had some dominant performances in blowout games against weaker non-conference opponents last season: 22 points and eight rebounds against Northern Kentucky, 16 points and nine rebounds against Long Beach State, and 15 points and three rebounds against Chicago State--but his most impressive game of the 2012-2013 regular season came against That Team Up North.
Michigan, ranked third at the time, was undeniably a tough opponent last season, and the game itself was a heartbreaking 76-74 loss in overtime for the Buckeyes. Ross managed 16 points--one below leading scorer DeShaun Thomas' 17--and five rebounds in 23 minutes of playing time.
Ross really made a name for himself in tournament play last season. In the Buckeyes' second round victory over Iona, Ross had just seven points, but an impressive eight rebounds. In Ohio State's remaining three NCAA Tournament games, he averaged just over 17 points and 2.7 rebounds per game. He even won the game against the Arizona Wildcats on a buzzer-beating three-pointer. That's the LaQuinton Ross Buckeyes fans hope to see on the court this season.
Outlook for 2013-14:
The 2012-2013 Buckeyes depended heavily on DeShaun Thomas's scoring prowess, and Ross does have the skills to fill that role as a pure shooter. Ross just needs to be consistent offensively with more playing time. Ross has added about ten pounds to his 6'8" frame since last season, bringing his weight up to around 225, which will create a more physical presence on the inside both offensively and defensively. Ross has also reportedly worked on conditioning in preparation for increased playing time, as well as working on ball control, to limit the turnovers he's been prone to in the past, and improving his defense, which has not necessarily been a strength.
Best case scenario:
The Ross we saw against Michigan, and throughout the NCAA Tournament, is the Ross who will take the court this season. Ideally, he's able to improve his footwork and awareness, cutting down on the needless turnovers from last season, allowing Matta to keep him on the court. Ross's athleticism and shooting stroke give the Buckeye's the number one offensive weapon they desperately need, clocking in at around 16 points per game.
Worst case scenario:
Those dominant performances against Michigan and during the NCAA Tournament were a fluke, and Ross cannot live up to the standard of scoring the Buckeyes need him to fulfill. Or, Ross continues to turn the ball over, or does not improve defensively, and gives points right back to opponents despite the fact that he's scoring effectively. The Buckeyes struggle to establish a regular scorer without him, and the team flounders.