Earnest Ross got what he wanted and a little extra.
The senior guard left Auburn after his sophomore year to play in the NCAA tournament. After sitting out a year for transfer rules, he did that, but he also learned about himself during his three years in Columbia.
He and senior forward Tony Criswell, another transfer, will play at Mizzou Arena for the final time Wednesday as the team celebrates Senior Night.
Ross averaged 13.1 points and 6.6 rebounds in his sophomore year at Auburn, leading the team in both categories. But he wanted to play in the prestigious NCAA tournament, which Auburn hasn’t been to since 2003.
“Hopefully go to two postseasons, and that was his reason for transferring,” Missouri coach Frank Haith said. “It was definitely a luxury for us, a blessing for us.”
So Ross headed to Columbia, becoming Haith’s first signee. He said Haith and his coaching staff helped him grow as a player and a person since enrolling at MU in 2011.
“The coaches, they do a great job teaching us life lessons, whether it’s on the court or off the court,” Ross said. “So (I’m) just pretty much just being a sponge the whole time I’m here, just taking everything in to become a better person. I think I’ve done a good job for the past three years, and now it’s time to really get out there on my own and become a man.”
The basketball lessons taught Ross the right balance between driving and spotting up from 3-point range. The life lessons taught him about responsibility, maturity and communication, he said.
“To get things done in life, you have to be able to communicate, so just doing everything that I’ve done with school just makes me a better person,” Ross said.
Another thing Ross will leave with is a degree, which he said is what he’s “really excited about.”
Ross enjoyed the unique experience of seeing the Southeastern Conference through the lens of two different schools.
“I didn’t really expect to be back in the SEC after I left Auburn,” Ross said. “Missouri was in the Big 12 at the time, so I didn’t really expect it, but not too many guys get to be back in the same conference they transferred from and get to play against their old team. For me, it was a blessing. I actually wanted to do that, play against my old friends. That’s something I really have enjoyed.”
Ross got the chance to start against Auburn last season, but he came off the bench as the sixth man most of his junior season. This year, Ross never left the starting lineup. He’s averaging 14.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.
In his last home game at Missouri and in the SEC, Ross plans to continue to be a sponge and take in the spectacle of Senior Night.
“You can’t live these moments twice, so I’m definitely going to live in the present tomorrow and just have fun.”