It took a last-minute roster hole to bring LaQuinton Ross back.
When Ohio State alumni team Carmen’s Crew needed a skilled forward to bolster its roster for The Basketball Tournament, a call was placed to the Mississippi native fresh off a season with the Memphis Hustle of the NBA’s G-League.
Ross quickly accepted the invitation and headed back to Columbus for the first time since he declared for the NBA draft as a junior after the 2013-14 season, went undrafted and began a professional career that has taken him across the world.Get the news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our BuckeyeXtra newsletter
Regrets? He’s had a few, but leaving Ohio State isn’t one of them.
“It was real hard, but you can’t live your life with regrets,” Ross said after a first-round TBT win July 19 at Capital University’s The Capital Center. “I think it was the best decision I had for myself at the time. I was going through a lot. I had my daughter, I had to take care of, so that was the best thing for me.”
His daughter is now 8 years old, and Ross also has a 4-year-old son. Since leaving Ohio State, Ross has played in Argentina, France, Italy and Israel, among other places, and is beginning to take advantage of Ohio State’s degree completion program that allows former players to return and finish their education.
His decision to leave early didn’t sit well with Ohio State fans and was one of dozens of dominoes that ended coach Thad Matta's time with the Buckeyes, but it’s a situation that’s happening more often. According to data compiled by CBSSports.com, the number of underclassmen remaining in the NBA draft beyond the deadline to withdraw and retain collegiate eligibility has risen for four straight seasons and topped out at 86 for the 2019 class.
“I don’t think people understand the process of when you don’t make it to the NBA,” Ross said. “Your basketball career is far from done. There’s too many opportunities overseas. Guys are making a living doing this. They don’t have to get a job when we’re playing overseas.
“It’s not as popularized as the NBA because there’s not cameras recording it, but if somebody would actually sit down and do a documentary on what overseas life is like for the players, they’re living good lives.”
Ultimately, Ross’ decision was shaped in part due to needing to provide for his family. The goal remains the same — play in the NBA one day — and this is potentially a way to get there.
“There are different paths to the NBA,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said earlier this month. “Then there are situations where guys are just going to say I’m going to professionalize because there are different ways to be a paid, pro athlete.”
During his final season with the Buckeyes, Ross led the team in scoring (15.2 points per game) and rebounding (5.9). He finished his career averaging 10.6 points per game and is remembered for his winning three-pointer against Arizona in the Sweet Sixteen during the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
He left after a first-round tournament loss to Dayton the next year. Had he returned, Ross could have been part of a roster featuring one-and-done first-round pick D’Angelo Russell that lost to Arizona in the second round of the tournament. It was three more years until the Buckeyes returned to that stage, and with Holtmann, not Matta.
“Looking back on it, I would’ve had a chance to play with D’Angelo,” Ross said. “We probably could’ve made a run that year.”