Perhaps it was a forgone conclusion, Terrence Ross would top our Washington countdown.
Maybe it was obvious when he scorched the competition during last season’s Pac-10 Tournament. It was a marvelous week in Los Angeles for Ross, who made his starting debut a memorable one.
He averaged 15.3 points and shot 52.8 percent from the field in three games before being named to the all-tournament team. In the championship overtime win over Arizona, Ross played 36 minutes and scored 16 points including a three-pointer in the final seconds of regulation to force the extra period.
In the third round of the NCAA tournament, Ross recovered from a scoreless outing in the previous game and tallied 19 points and six rebounds in a loss to North Carolina. He played big in front a nationally televised audience, which proved to be the perfect springboard heading into his sophomore season.
The 6 foot 6, 195-pound guard is considered the Pac-12’s hottest NBA draft prospect and a late lottery pick in 2012. He’s racking up a slew of preseason honors, which pegs him as a first-team all-conference selection and league MVP candidate.
It’s almost amazing so many expectations are being heaped on someone who was an honorable mention Pac-10 all-freshman team pick and a role player on last season’s squad that finished 24-11. Ross started just four games and averaged 8.0 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.0 assists. He shot 44.3 percent from the field, 35.2 percent on three-pointers and 75.8 on free throws.
There were many games when Ross, a four-star recruit from Portland, was a non-factor offensively. He was held scoreless four contest and 26 times didn’t crack double-digit points.
But there were also times when he was brilliant.
Ross flashed a glimpse of his incredible potential at USC when he finished with 18 points, five rebounds and two steals to help the Huskies to a 73-67 overtime win.
The next week, he scored a career-high 25 points in 27 minutes against Oregon. He also collected four steals, four rebounds and connected on 11 of 18 field goals.
After the game, coach Lorenzo Romar compared Ross favorably to a pair of former UW stars.
“In terms of just his talent alone, right up there with Brandon Roy,” Romar said. “Brandon Roy had signed when we got here. Spencer Hawes is really talented. To be able to do what he does at 6-11. The way he passes and shoots and all that, he’s really talented. Terrence is up there. He’s up there in the top couple.”
It wasn’t the last time Ross garnered praise that made headlines.
This summer former Husky Isaiah Thomas said: “Terrence Ross is the most talented player I’ve played with during my time at the UW.”
Ross is an immensely talented offensive player who is expected to anchor a Husky team that lost its top three scorers. Ross is one of three talented wings for Washington. What sets him apart from the others is his ability to create his shot with deft dribbling and a wicked crossover move.
Ross is also one of the most athletic players in the conference and an explosive dunker who is fearless in traffic. The only thing missing from his offensive repertoire is being able to draw fouls. He sank just 25 free throws last season.
Ross is a tremendous offensive talent, but admittedly he needs to work on his defensive skills. At times he was a liability on the defensive end as a freshman. However, Romar believes Ross has made significant strides, expects he’ll be UW’s ‘defensive stopper’ and plans to assign him to the opposing team’s top wing scoring threat.
That’s asking a lot considering is expected to carry the Huskies offensively. But if Ross becomes the all-around player Romar envisions and lives up to the hype and expectations, there’s no telling how far he can carry the Huskies.
Here’s a transcript of a recent interview with Ross.
(Do you have a better understanding of the defensive rotations than you did a year ago?) “Yeah it’s coming natural. Now when I react to something, it’s not I got to think about it. I just react to something and I’m already in the right spot.”
(Is it easier to learn the defense if you’re teaching it to seven freshmen?) “Yeah. If you know it, it’s easier to teach. If you don’t, you got to pay attention more. To me, it’s easier now. I can explain it.”
(Have they come to you with questions?) “Some of them have. Some of the guards have.”
(Darnell Gant said the guys have to run in practice when their team makes defensive mistakes. He also said he ran the most due to your mistakes. How is it this year?) “Last year it was pretty tough on me. I was learning a lot of things. Learning from a lot of the mistakes I made. This year it’s kind of frustrating, but at the same time I can kind of understand and relate to where they (the freshmen) are coming from. It’s easier for me to explain new things to them. Lot of the older guys have been doing it much longer. So I’ve been able to cut down on my running.”
(How much are you running these days because of the freshmen lapses?) “Not too much. It’s getting better each practice. Sometimes they’ll be days when they mess up more than once so we have to run for it.”
(What’s fair to expect from you in terms of rebounding?) “I can’t put a number on it, but I know that’s a main focus for us. We need everybody to rebound. That’s something I really focus on trying to do especially at the guard position.”
(With your athleticism you figure to be a natural rebounder.) “That definitely adds to my advantage and that’s something I’m really trying to get after and try to be better on this year than I did last year.”
(How will increased height on the team manifest itself?) “I think so. We definitely have taller guys on our team so I think that should be a good factor for us to get more rebounds and deflections and other stuff.”
(What’s the highlight of practice so far?) “I don’t know. I really can’t think of it. So much has happened, but mostly defensive plays (like) somebody gets shutdown. We had a lot of them so far so it’s hard to say just a couple.”
(Did you dunk on someone who tried to take a charge?) “Alex (Wegner), one of the freshmen. He tried to take a charge too far under the basket and I just kind of jumped over him.”
(How aware are you of the circle under the basket?) “Aware. So now I now when somebody is standing close to it or in it, I can dunk off of one (leg) instead of going off of two. Usually if they get there, it’s not a charge or anything because they’re so far under the basket. So it’s kind of helpful.”
(Is it easy to see the circle?) “It’s pretty easy.”
(What did you learn from last season about when to shoot and finding spots on the floor to take shots?) “Just time, place and situation. I still stick with that message and try to take my shots. You need to know that when to take shots or when to slow it down or when to just run offense.”
(Do you always use your crossover dribble to find your rhythm and get into your shot?) “I think I recently started doing that like my freshman year (in college) and in the beginning of my senior year (in high school). That really wasn’t my go-to move. It worked so well for me and I just kept doing it.”
(Isaiah Thomas calls it out whenever he plays against you.) “He calls it out, but it usually still doesn’t work as long as I get to my comfortable spot.”
(What did you work on this summer?) “Defense, weight room and shooting.”
(How much weight did you put on?) “Six to seven pounds. Maybe a little more. Last year I was about 195 and this year I’m like 205.”
(Why did you add the weight?) “So that when I go to the basket, it’s easier for me to finish.”
(Was that a part of your game you wanted to improve? And it’s not just you. Romar has said he wanted you, Scott Suggs and C.J. Wilcox to drive and get more fouls.) “Yeah that’s something we worked on this offseason.”
(What is it about the team that gets you excited for the season?) “We play with a lot of intensity. We always play hard. It’s just a new-looking team from last year. So I’m excited to see what we can do.”
(What goals do you have for yourself this season?) “Just win the championship for my team. Take us as far as we an go. Just play hard every game.”
(What does it take to be consistent game in and game out?) “It’s mentally tough, but that’s something you got to get used to as the season goes on. I’m just trying to adjust to it in practice. You just have to give the same effort and same intensity the first night as the last game of the year.”
(Have you talked to guys about that?) “Not really. It’s something that I’m trying to figure out on my own. I could probably ask IT or some other guys, but right now it’s something I’m trying to figure out on my own.”
(Any lessons from last season that will help?) “Always go hard. No matter what.”
(Seems taxing.) “Yeah it is. But just go hard every possession, every play and every defensive assignment because you never know when that deflection could lead to one person not getting a shot, which is two points and that’s all it takes to win a game.”
(Who has surprised you the most?) “Jernard (Jarreau). At first when he got here, he was kind of slim and kind of little. And I didn’t think with Desmond (Simmons), Darnell and Aziz (N’Diaye) down there that he would be able to get rebounds. But he gets a lot of rebounds in practice and a lot of offensive boards. He’s always active on the boards and that’s something I really didn’t expect.”
(Do you pay attention to your hype?) “No.”
(How do you avoid it?) “I just focus on what I need to do or the assignments I need to complete. Or the things that are going on right now. I’m not worried about the future.”
(But when guys on your team or someone like Thomas says you’re the next great Husky, how do you keep that in perspective?) “It’s cool to hear, but it’s not something that you focus on. It’s not something where you say OK I made it or whatever. It’s just something that someone else says. So I just got to keep doing what I’m doing and keep getting better.”
(Who do you think are the contenders for the Pac-12 title?) “I think every team can be a title contender. Every team came back with new recruits and new players. Everybody kind of has a different style than last year so it should be a competitive league this season.”
(This summer you went to the LeBron camp right?) “The Kevin Durant camp.”
(What did you learn from that?) “That if I keep coming to work, I can be potentially one of the top guards in the country. I just got to push myself.”