Aaron Craft is the most important piece to the Ohio State puzzle this season, but LaQuinton Ross has to be the best player on the floor for the Buckeyes to succeed.
Craft is the leader, the guy that initiates the offense, and the best on-ball defender in the country; but he needs help, especially in the scoring department. Craft needs a partner in crime that can get to the rim and create plays, and that’s where Ross should step in. Ross is the only guy on Ohio State that can get a shot whenever he wants.
Every team needs a player like Ross, but players like him are only effective is they take control and get aggressive. Ross can’t just decide “oh, I need to get a shot up in this possession,” he needs to get the ball and attack the paint whenever the chance occurs, and against teams like Ohio that don’t have big-time college athletes, he really needs to attack the hoop.
Ross plays too passive at times. Yes, he’s a great shooter and he can shoot over anyone with his size, but If he had the motor and get-up-and-go of Craft, Ross would be one of the best players in the country. He spent most of Ohio State’s 79-69 victory over the Bobcats standing patiently on the perimeter. With Ross standing around on the perimeter, that leaves Craft and Sam Thompson as the only Buckeyes players willing to take the ball into the paint to draw fouls.
The Bobcats committed 34 fouls on Tuesday night and had four guys foul out. The Buckeyes shot 51 free throws, but Ross only shot four. His first free throw attempt didn’t come until the 10-minute mark of the second half. No one could protect the paint for the Bobcats, but Craft was the only Buckeyes player that was willing to take the action to Ohio’s big men.
For the past two seasons, Ross has hidden in the shadow of Deshaun Thomas, and this season was supposed to be his coming-out party. When you are as big as Ross is with a seven-foot wingspan and have shooting range, sometimes it gets easy to hang around the 3-point line and hoist up jumpers.
I like to call this the Rudy Gay Syndrome. Gay is big, long and athletic, but he only shoots step-back jumpers, pull-up jumpers, and fast-break dunks. Some players like to take the easy road, and that is what Ross did on Tuesday against Ohio. Half of Ross’ 10 shots were 3-point attempts, and two other shots were long jumpers.
Ross also only had one turnover. I know that is supposed to be a good thing, but with one turnover and only four free throws attempts, that only further proves the point that Ross wasn’t even trying to get in the mix.
Ohio State is a veteran squad that has highly-recruited and talented players at every position. The Buckeyes’ goals are higher than making the NCAA Tournament — they have the talent to compete with Michigan State and Michigan for the top spot in the Big Ten. If Ohio State is to reach the height of their potential, they will need more from Ross. If Ross is to reach the height of his potential, he will need to give his team more.
Craft is the type of player that will allow someone like Ross to shine if he asserts himself, but someone needs to convince Ross to be more assertive.
Follow Robbie on Twitter @rmarbury