Ohio State forward LaQuinton Ross is the biggest wildcard left in the NCAA Tournament.
Last night he drilled a three-pointer from NBA distance to beat Arizona with two seconds left.
And it wasn’t just the final shot, he was the best player on the court down the stretch last night. He scored 10 points in the final six minutes, including two deep threes and a twisting lineup to put OSU up six points with 90 seconds left.
He has now scored 17 points in two-straight games after scoring more than 16 just once during the regular season. In fact, he had 14 games this year where he scored five points or less.
So where’d he come from?
As Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo! points out, Ross was actually a one-time phenom. He was the top-rated prospect in the country as a 16-year-old. But by his senior year of high school, he developed a reputation for inconsistency.
He slipped to the #44 in the national rankings when he committed to OSU in 2011, and Scout.com evaluated him with this paragraph:
“Ross hasn’t yet proven that he can consistently stay healthy or play hard and that has had some question his love of the game, but the talent is definitely there.”
When he got to Ohio State, his struggles continued. He only played in nine games last year as a freshman, and never played more than seven minutes.
But this year something changed, and Ross has finally put forth the effort that his unquestioned talent necessitates. Point guard Aaron Craft told Yahoo!:
“I think he saw he could try to rebel as much as he wanted to, but we were still going to go on. He’s done a great job really jumping on board this year. If you talk to him about that, I think he’d tell you the same thing.”
Ross is a 6’7″ forward who can shoot threes and drive to the basket. He’s a nightmare match-up for college defenders.
And he models himself after another all-around scorer, Kobe Bryant.
Ohio State is playing at Staples centre in Los Angeles — the same place the Lakers play — and Ross called dibs on using Kobe’s locker. He told Yahoo! that he sees himself as a mini Kobe, saying, “To find out I had that locker, it felt great,. That’s one of my favourite players growing up and somebody I model my game after.”
He took this picture from the locker and posted it to Instagram:
Ross is a blue-chip talent who is putting it all together at the perfect time. If he can continue this strong form, Ohio State is a much more dangerous team that we thought coming into the tournament.
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