By Matt McCoy
Unless there's an unexpected turn of events, the basketball Buckeyes leading scorer LaQuinton Ross has played his last game at Ohio State. Multiple reports indicate that Ross will declare for the NBA draft as early as Tuesday.
The 6'8 junior averaged 15.2 points and 5.9 rebounds and was a third-team All Big Ten selection in a vote of the league's coaches. Early draft projections do not have Ross rated as a first round selection.
"I think he's making a mistake," 610 WTVN basketball analyst Tony White said Monday on our final Basketball Bucksline of the season. (Listen to the podcast of Bucksline by clicking here.) "I understand that he wants to make money for himself and for his family (Ross has a young daughter) and if LaQuinton Ross' goal is to make money professionally, he'll have an opportunity to do that...but if his goal is to play in the NBA, I don't think he'll have the opportunity to do that next year."
Ross' expected departure means Thad Matta has lost at least one underclassmen to the NBA draft in seven of the last eight years. DeShaun Thomas made the jump last year and was the first of those early entries who was not selected in the first round.
The San Antonio Spurs took Thomas in the late stages of round two with the 58th overall pick. Thomas played for the Spurs summer league team but did not go to training camp and is now playing overseas. Tony thinks Ross will wind up taking a similar path.
"It's very difficult for a kid in LaQuinton Ross' position or DeShaun Thomas' position to turn that instant money (for playing overseas) down --- six figures of money down -- because it's more money than they've every had or seen in their entire life," Tony said. "But the point is there is a bigger enchilada out there if they stick it out (at Ohio State) and they improve to the point that they can become a solid first round pick."
It's not out of the question that Ross could end up in the first round. ESPN's Chad Ford has him rated number 32--just two picks away from sneaking into round one.
"I do think he is a player that some teams may (consider) very late in the first round because he's got a lot of talent," Tony said. "But I still think that teams, when they get him in an individual workout, are going to be surprised by how he doesn't have that athletic explosion and quickness of step. He's more of a technician. He finds gaps and he exploits gaps but he doesn't create gaps. In the NBA, creating your own opportunities is a big thing and I'm not sure that LaQuinton Ross is an NBA creator. Plus you have the lack of mental maturity that was on display throughout the course of the season...You throw all of that into the mix and he looks to me like a second round pick."
Here are some other highlights from Tony White our final 2014 Bucksline.
Tony, on the 25-10 Buckeyes: "If you shined the white hot lights in the FBI interrogation room on Coach Matta, he would admit that this may have been the most frustrating team he's ever had as a coach. The inability to score was painful to watch and how many times did Ohio State down the stretch have chances to win games because their defense was that good, and just kind of gag the game away."
For the record--as I pointed out on the blog last week, Matta coached Buckeye teams had lost only 8 times in his first 9 seasons, when they held a lead with 5:00 remaining in regulation. This Ohio State team lost 5 times in that situation.
Tony, on Amir Williams: "He looks like a 6'11 kid that somebody said, 'Amir--you're 6'11--you have to play basketball.' Then he goes out there and says 'Oh man, I really don't want to play basketball but I guess I'd better because I'm 6'11 and I have all these skills.'... That's exactly how he plays 90 percent of the time and it just makes you want to tear your hair out watching the kid play because you know he could have such a great impact."
Tony, on whether Ohio State should schedule Dayton, Xavier or Cincinnati: "I don't know that that's a great idea. Thad Matta wants to act like the state of Ohio is all sewn up and Ohio State is the premier program in the state and (despite the Dayton loss) he has that...he has that mantle. Why would he do anything that could cause that title to be questioned? If you go play Xavier and they beat you..or you go play Dayton again and they beat you...suddenly people are going to start questioning that. The ramifications of that are in recruiting...(The risk) isn't worth it. If you play those teams every year and you don't consistently beat them, people are going to start asking recruits questions about why they think Ohio State is dominant."
Tony on Sam Thompson: "Sam Thompson, when you look at this team, was one of the more consistent players...but unfortunately, it's consistently average. He didn't really have a lot of games when he was bad but he had a lot of games when he was average or he didn't do anything. He'd play 24 or 27 minutes and have no rebounds and go 1-for-2 from the floor without a lot of turnovers, play decent defense and you'd go 'I can't remember Sam Thompson doing anything terrible but I can't remember Sam Thompson doing anything good.' Then every now and then he's pop out there and have a tremendous game and you'd say 'why can't he do more of that?'.... He's got to start making more of an impact."
Tony on the emphasis for this team in the off-season: "Shooting with a capital S. I know they shot a lot in the off-season last year but this team really, really, really has to get better offensively. Nobody needs to work on Sam Thompson's first step or getting quicker or getting him to jump higher. They've got to work on him shooting it... Same thing with Shannon Scott. The kid displayed in the Michigan game (in the Big Ten tournament) that when he's on he is tremendous. He's got to be on next year. He's really got to be on."
Again--to listen to the entire show...it's here on our podcast page. Thanks to everyone for listening and participating. We had tremendous feedback all year on the phones, e-mail, or social media. Can't wait for next season!