If he listens closely, Terrence Ross could probably hear the voices above the cheering din of the crowd.
“Go to the basket!”
“Shoot that shot!”
“Just take over the game!”
Sure, it’s criticism but it’s good criticism. They know how good the slender sophomore can be for the University of Washington.
They were tantalized by the 19 points against North Carolina in the NCAA tournament. They were teased by the 19 points and clutch 3-pointer against Marquette earlier this season. They are mesmerized by the feathery jump shot. They drool over the long arms and leaping ability and the way Ross can hang for seemingly minutes in the air to contort his body to finish shots.
He can score in so many ways, and make it look almost effortless while doing it.
And yet, if you look at the team stats, Ross is the team’s third-leading scorer at 14.1 points per game. He’s third on the team in shots attempted with 185 and has only attempted 38 free throws this season, which is fifth on the team.
They are respectable numbers, but Huskies fans want more from Ross: more driving to the basket, more looking for his shot, more assertiveness.
Even coach Lorenzo Romar would like to see Ross take the ball to the basket more. Why? Because he knows it would lead to good things.
“I don’t know how you would guard him,” Romar said. “If he created more situations where he slashed more and put the pressure on the defense, I think it would make a him better player. He’s aware of that. And he’s working on it.”
Ross understands their pleas. He knows he can be more aggressive.
But there is a time and a place to be more aggressive, and he won’t sacrifice the continuity of the offense or the chemistry of the team to do so.
“I’m not trying to go one-on-one and force iso (isolation) situations, trying to rush things,” he said. “That’s when it gets out of hand. I’m just trying to stay within the framework of the offense. I know they’re trying to create shots for me, and for other players, and I’m just trying to stay patient.”
Other players with his talent wouldn’t have that level of patience. But Ross looks at the game with a level of maturity. You won’t see him calling for the ball or erupting in anger if he doesn’t get touches or shots.
“If it’s going to be hard for a defender to stop me, that’s when I call for the ball,” he said. “I’m never trying to monopolize the ball or ball-hog or anything like that. I’m trying to make sure my team is doing what we need to do to win.”
Forcing shots outside of the offense is not what he believes will be good for the team.
“If I try to do everything by myself or what not, it would just make the team look bad and myself look bad,” he said. “I need to stay within the confines of what the coaches ask and what it takes to be successful and everyrthing will just fall into place for everyone.”
That’s not the kind of talk you hear from a player who is projected to be an NBA first-round pick if he decides to enter the draft after this season. Ross’ stellar play against North Carolina and then his play in summer leagues have vaulted him to the top of NBA scouts’ radar.
The Huskies have had a wealth of NBA scouts at their games and they are all there to see Ross and freshman Tony Wroten. What have they seen from Ross? The talent is there, but they have yet to see him dominate a game they way he could.
A scout from the Washington Wizards, who attended the Huskies’ game against Nevada on Dec. 2 to specifically scout Ross, was complimentary of him for “staying within the framework of the offense.”
But the same scout said, “There is no reason he doesn’t get to the free-throw line eight to 10 times a game,” and “he’s one of their best players and he’s got to get shots at the end of games.”
Ross knows there’s a different perception of him.
“I definitely felt people were looking at me different, but I just had to listen to the coaches,” he said. “They told me, ‘Don’t worry about what other people are saying. Do what you need to do to be successful.’ ”
ESPN’s Chad Ford, who specializes in the NBA draft, has Ross ranked 17th on his list of top 100 draft-eligible players.
Ross doesn’t get too caught up in that. If guys on the team check it out, he will look with them. But he won’t do it on his own.
“Everybody has their own opinions,” he said. “You might see yourself Top 5 on one board and in reality you really aren’t as good as think you are. You have to worry about doing what’s right and playing how the coaches need you to play and it will all work itself out.”