FOUR YEARS AGO Ronald Ross wasn't good enough for Texas Tech--or anywhere else. Even though he had played on three state 5A championship teams and been named New Mexico's player of the year in his senior year at Hobbs High, the 6'2" guard received not one Division I scholarship offer. Ross settled for walking on at Texas Tech for coach Bob Knight. "A lot of people doubted me," says Ross. "Having the opportunity to prove people wrong is a good thing."
Ross made the most of that opportunity in the first two rounds in Tucson. Thanks to his all-court masterpiece (24 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals) in the sixth-seeded Red Raiders' 71--69 upset of No. 3 seed Gonzaga on Saturday, Tech will be heading to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1996. "He had to go through a lot as a nonscholarship player, [but] he never complained," said Knight after the Gonzaga win, in which Ross sank a go-ahead three-pointer with 1:10 left. "I have never had a player I've had more admiration for than Ronald Ross, particularly when he hit that three."
In Lubbock, Ross had to adjust to Knight's motion offense and notorious temper. "Anything that Coach has ever said to me, I wouldn't have him take back," says Ross. "I'm glad he got on me every single time he got on me. Without that, I don't think I'd be where I am now." Last year, his first on scholarship, he started to blossom offensively, scoring 10.1 points a game, and this year he led the Red Raiders, averaging 17.0 points. He has developed into a long-range shooter, hitting 45.0% from the arc, compared with 28.8% over his first three years, and has added an effective short-range jumper, which he used to shred Gonzaga's zone.
Ross writes GO GET IT on a piece of tape he wears around his left wrist during every game. "It's a reminder to stay as active as I can," he says. "I have to play hard on defense, be aggressive on offense and not have my season be a shoulda-coulda-woulda."
He'll leave those thoughts to all the coaches who coulda had him. --Kelli Anderson