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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Earnest Ross is ready to lead

Earnest Ross led the SEC in scoring off the bench in his junior year.

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Sophomore guard Earnest Ross drives to the basket in Missouri's Black and Gold scrimmage Oct. 15. Ross scored a game-high 25 points in the Tigers' last scrimmage against Central Missouri on Friday.

Mike Krebs/Senior Staff Photographer

Earnest Ross wanted to win.

That’s what brought the 6-foot-5 shooting guard to Columbia. Ross started his career in 2010 with an 11-20 Auburn squad. He came to Missouri his sophomore year.

“Winning. That was my first thing,” Ross said. “Winning and fan base … when I came here, that’s what I saw.”

After two years, one spent on the bench due to NCAA transfer rules, Ross has been a part of 53 victories. Now it is his turn to keep that going.

Ross is one of only two seniors on a Tiger roster full of question marks, but he is ready to lead his feisty young pack of Tigers into battle on the hardwood.

“Guys know that if we need a bucket they can always count on me to go get the ball,” he said. “If we need a crucial rebound, they know they can always have me on the court to get that rebound.”

In his junior year, Ross averaged 11 points per game off the bench while shooting 44 percent from the field. He led the Southeastern Conference in scoring off the bench.

Ross has earned his way into the starting lineup for the upcoming season and is excited for the responsibility that comes with that, both on and off the court.

“I think it’s been a great transition,” Ross said about his move from sixth man to team leader. “I think it’s a great feeling and a great experience. Being able to communicate with the guys is probably the biggest thing for me. We are bringing (the young players) aboard to what we’re doing as a team.”

Ross acknowledges that with his new role, a change will come in his style of play. Last year, he was somewhat of a shooting specialist. He showed blips of driving ability and displayed a clear athletic prowess, but many of his points resided beyond the arc.

“My role has changed. I’m not going to be the type of players to just settle for threes,” said Ross, who led the Tigers in scoring in their 92-79 win over Central Missouri on Friday with 25 points. “I’m going to use my strength and use what God gave me to cut more and try to get to the free throw line.”

Although his game may look a little different, Ross said who he is has not changed.

He’s still going to be the emotional lightning rod that gets the entire crowd on its feet in big moments, and he’ll still be the guy wearing a huge smile after a breakaway slam.

“Being able to play this game each and every day is a blessing. If you can’t have fun doing it, then don’t do it,” Ross said. “I’m just grateful to be here.”

Ross’ grateful attitude is a value instilled in him from a young age. He says being raised by a mother with a strong Christian faith plays an important role in all of his actions.

“When I was a kid, my mom used to always teach me that you were put on this Earth to do not just what you do on the court, but to glorify God,” Ross said. “I take pride in that, I really do.”

The thankful nature Ross gains from his faith plays a good dancing partner to his never-ending quest to be better than he was the day before.

“From never playing in the NCAA tournament to playing in the first round of the tournament to losing in the first round,” he said recounting the steps of his journey in postseason play. “And now to want to succeed further than that.”

Ross has his goals set high.

“My top goal is to win the national championship, but in order to win that you have to start off small. Win our next game,” he said. “I have to take it in small steps like that.”

Those small steps become more and more weighted as 2013 progresses, not only because postseason tournaments near, but so do Ross’ days as a Tiger — both in Auburn and Missouri.

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