LaQuinton Ross, 6-foot-8 small forward, Ohio State: Known best for his outside-shooting prowess, Ross functioned as a stretch power forward for the Buckeyes and lived up to expectations as the team’s go-to scorer. A native of the underrated hotbed of Jackson, Mississippi, Ross was regarded as one of the nation’s top prospects early in his prep career, saw his stock drop, then rise again after a transfer to a New Jersey school before matriculating to Ohio State. Ross’ scoring ability is clear and while he displayed more versatility and toughness than many observers gave him credit for in the past, there are areas of his game that need improvement in order for him to be an effective pro.
Career highlights: Due to NCAA eligibility issues stemming from his multiple transfers in high school, Ross sat out the beginning of his freshman year, then played sparingly, appearing in only nine games and averaging two points in those contests, as he struggled to get up to speed in the middle of the season. As a sophomore, he took on a much larger role as an instant-offense scorer off the bench, averaging 8.3 points per game, shooting 38.9 percent from three-point range and finishing the campaign in strong fashion by excelling in the NCAA Tournament for Ohio State before the season ended in the Elite Eight. Ross started as a junior and despite playing out of position, led the team in scoring at 15.2 points per game, while pulling down 5.9 boards per game to earn third team all-Big Ten recognition and be named to the conference’s all-tournament team.
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Strengths: Regarded as a one-dimensional sharpshooter and finesse player upon entering college, Ross drastically improved other aspects of his game, playing with a greater toughness to better utilize his size and length as a rebounder, as well as making a more concerted effort on the defensive end of the floor. He also diversified his offensive game, posting up smaller defenders and taking advantage of big men off the dribble, getting to the free-throw line and not shying away from using his improved physique. But Ross’ bread and butter is and always will be his natural scoring instincts and high-release jumper, and his deep range, whether with his feet set or coming off screens, along with the ability to hit pull-up shots, is what sets up the rest of his game.
Weaknesses: While Ross has come a long way in terms of being more versatile and playing with more of a physical nature, he still has challenges matching up with stronger and more athletic players. Ross lacks explosiveness and isn’t an advanced ballhandler or passer, so he doesn’t bring much in the way of playmaking or high-level shot creation. Defensively, guarding either quicker wings or physical post players could also be problematic on the next level, though Ross certainly has enough of an understanding of the game to be a solid team defender.
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Draft projection: Forgoing his final year of college eligibility was a bit of a gamble for Ross, as he will face heavy competition from a large group of counterparts all seeking distinguish themselves, meaning he’ll have to stand out as a lights-out shooter and minimize his deficiencies to justify being a second-round pick. That’s feasible for him and regardless of whether or not he’s drafted, a strong summer-league showing and battling in training camp on a team that has a need for perimeter marksmanship could land Ross a deep-rotation spot, though the D-League wouldn’t necessarily be a bad starting point for his career. However, like former teammate DeShaun Thomas, whose role Ross inherited as Ohio State’s go-to scorer, it’s also easy to envision a team drafting Ross and stashing him overseas to gain more experience.