The Ohio State men’s basketball team was a complete roller coaster ride in the 2013-14 season, and LaQuinton Ross was a microcosm of the team’s highs and lows. Ross came into his junior season poised to be the “the man” on a roster lacking any serious offensive threats. Despite playing more minutes and being the primary weapon on offense Ross struggled with being consistent on a game to game basis. Even though Ross didn’t live up to his potential, he decided it was time to take the leap to the NBA:
My experience at Ohio State has been incredible. Coach Matta, my teammates and the staff were amazing to work with on a daily basis. My goal has always been to play at the next level and I believe now is the best time.
Ross also got an endorsement from his head coach Thad Matta:
LaQuinton was an instrumental part of our success over the last three years. His goal is to compete at the highest level possible. He will have that opportunity because of the work he has put in to prepare for this day. He will be missed at Ohio State and we wish him nothing but the very best.
Thad Matta has coached a lot of players that have gone on to play in the NBA and have been mainstays, like Mike Conley Jr. and Evan Turner, but is he right to say Ross is ready? I would have to disagree with Coach Matta, although Ross does have the potential to be successful.
While I don’t think Ross is ready for the NBA he will definitely draw some attention from teams. The junior forward is 6′ 8″ and 220 lbs., his size alone will garner interest at the next level. LaQuinton has also shown a knack for getting to the basket when he commits to playing physical. On top of being able to score around the rim, Ross has the ability to hit from range though it is not his strength offensively. Ross also seemed to step his game up when the Big Ten tournament started, not shying away in big moments will help his resume going into the draft. LaQuinton averaged 15.2 ppg and 5.9 rebounds this past season, both career highs and solid numbers for a pro prospect. Ross is also a high character and hard working player, the type of rookie most coaches would relish having on a roster. There is a lot of upside to Ross and his potential is through the roof, the problem comes from the fact that he is still very raw.
While Ross saw increases in a lot of his averages over his junior year, a lot of that can be attributed to his increased playing time and responsibility. Despite averaging a career high in points, 15.2, he saw a drop in field goal percentage and three point field goal percentage. The lack of a second scoring threat was a factor, but LaQuinton’s willingness to take tough shots at inopportune moments played just as big of a role. Ross struggled to take over the offense for Ohio State and really establish himself as a dominate scorer. In 35 games, LaQuinton scored 20 or more points in only eight games. Ross also managed to completely disappear from games when his shots weren’t falling, not a good sign for a guy that was supposed to be the best player on the team. LaQuinton also lacks the athletic ability to be an elite defender and often times struggled against stronger more athletic forwards in the Big Ten. If Ross plans on playing the three in the NBA he will need to put on a lot of muscle and be better conditioned if he hopes to run with guys like LeBron James or Paul George. Overall Ross has a lot of work to do to be successful in the NBA, especially after he had such a hard time establishing himself in college.
In conclusion, I think Ross has a lot of upside but he would have benefited greatly from another season under the tutelage of Thad Matta. Currently most NBA mocks have Ross going in the mid to late second round of the draft, which I consider optimistic. LaQuinton Ross has a lot of untapped potential, but is still very raw and it is uncertain whether or not many teams will want to take the time to develop and condition him to play at the pro level. I can’t see Ross being drafted higher than the late second round, I personally expect him to go undrafted. If LaQuinton does end up being passed over in the draft he will likely get a shot in the summer league based on his size alone, but don’t be surprised if he spends next season in the D-League or playing overseas. Although I don’t think he is ready for the NBA I wish LaQuinton the best and hope he can be successful wherever he ends up.