When Toy Sue Miller Ross came to visit Columbia earlier this month, it was a big deal for her son Earnest. She’s rarely able to see him play in person, so he wanted to make sure she saw him at his best while in town.
She stayed for a week. He thanked her by having his best game of the season against the school he never thought he’d have to play against.
Junior guard Earnest Ross scored 23 points off 5-of-6 shooting from behind the 3-point line on Feb. 2 against Auburn, the team that Ross played on for two years before transferring to MU. His roommate, Senior Alex Oriakhi, said he understood the excitement Ross had coming into the game.
“There’s probably no greater feeling than to play good against your former team,” Oriakhi said. “I’m happy for him. He played great.”
While leaving the court, Ross pointed to the crowd at the end of the game. He wasn’t pointing to the student section or a particularly loud fan. He was pointing to the woman who had traveled far from her home to see him play. He was pointing to his mother.
“I’m always happy for her to attend a game,” he said. “For her to come out and support me as far as she lives, I'm grateful to have her and I really appreciate it.”
In his first season since transferring from Auburn to Missouri, Toy got to see her son play in Columbia with his new team in his new role, the sixth man off the bench.
Normally NCAA rules keep a player from transferring from one school to another in the same conference. Luckily for Ross, when he first transferred to Missouri they were members of the Big 12. By the time he took the court for the Tigers last fall, they were members of the Southeastern Conference playing against teams he was already familiar with.
“It makes the games a lot easier when I step into that type of game,” Ross said. “I would say I feel a little bit comfortable.”
In a season full of similarities, taking to the court in the same SEC stadiums he played in as a freshman, the junior from North Carolina has been able to maintain his role in coach Frank Haith’s rotation, first as a starter and now as the go-to scorer off the bench.
For Ross, who led Auburn in scoring during the 2010-11 season, the role doesn’t bother him. It just leaves him itching to get into games. The itch to play isn’t a new feeling for the 6-foot-5 junior. It was the same feeling he had all of last year as he sat on the sidelines waiting to play for Missouri.
Last year his barrier from the court was NCAA transfer rules. Now the only thing keeping him from the court is the first few minutes of the game.
“I’m just doing what coach asks me and doing what the team needs,” Ross said. “That’s what I’m here for. As long as we win and I do what I have to do, I’m happy.”
At this point in the season, Ross’s production has helped Missouri retain the distinction of having six players regularly scoring in double figures. Problem is, you can only have five players on the court at one time. For now, Haith has pegged Ross as the odd man out of the starting lineup.
“Earnest is a pretty good player,” Haith said. “We’ve got options.”
While Ross has expressed that like any player he’d like to start, his numbers tell a different story. This season when coming off the bench he is averaging almost 4 more points per game than when he starts. Earlier this month however, he was just happy he got to play in front of his biggest supporter.
Toy’s visit ended with the Tigers winning another game last Saturday against Ole Miss, in which her son scored 10 points and was perfect on 3-point shots.
“She’s just glad we won,” Ross said. “That’s all that matters.”
After she left, Ross said he was glad his mother got to see the team play two great games and get two wins. During media day he was asked if she was a “good luck charm” for both him and the team.
“She should be down more often if that’s the case,” Ross said.