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Ross persevered through coaching changes, injuries and other adversity

Posted: February 28, 2017 - 7:57pm
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Sitting on the couch in the player’s lounge before practice, Aaron Ross didn’t give it any extra thought.

His tone was the usual.

Keenan Evans describes it as “just so monotone,” which makes the joke even funnier and has the ability to smooth the excitement of what’s great and make it appear ordinary.

For Ross, Wednesday’s game is going to be just like any other. He’s going to do what he’s done for five years.

Now don’t get fooled by how ho-hum it sounds — like the usual, like a routine.

There are some college athletes who don’t make it to senior day. Some leave early for the hopes of a professional career.

Others can’t handle the workload of practices as well as academics and have to quit.

But as these senior day ceremonies are currently happening across the country, pay attention to those who have spent their entire career with that one program. Because that number won’t be as high as expected. Most players transfer for a myriad of reasons.

Ross has had plenty of those during his time at Texas Tech. He’s had four different coaches, two major knee injuries and only started seven games.

“Aaron should be one of the best stories in college basketball this season,” Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard said. “He’s been more loyal to this university than anyone ever. I put Aaron up there with Marsha Sharp and Gerald Myers. He has stayed the course and been loyal to this community and school.”

Freshman year

Ross had to think about it for a split second. He was describing his recruiting visit to Lubbock and had to pinpoint which coach it was.

“I really liked the campus,” he said. “Everybody here was just chill, calm. I really liked coach (Billy) Gillispie at the time. I really liked him a lot.”

Gillispie left the summer before Ross’s freshman season and Chris Walker stepped in as interim.

Ross, leaning back on the couch, just shrugged his shoulders.

“It wasn’t the first coaching change I ever went through,” he said.

And it wasn’t the last.

But Ross had something more important to worry about his first year in Lubbock. He tore his right ACL in August and had to miss his first season of collegiate basketball.

“It was hard. It was tough,” Ross said. “I had never had a serious injury before. I was just thinking to myself, ‘If I could just get back to normal.’ It was tough because my teammates were running up and down and I was just crutching along.”

Right around the time Ross was cleared to play again, Tubby Smith was announced as the next Texas Tech men’s basketball coach.

Another change. Another opportunity to leave.

Ross stayed.

Battling (more) adversity

Ross is known for his silky smooth 3-point shot, so it makes sense his favorite memory is dunking in a game during his freshman year.

“I was pretty pumped,” Ross said with a smile.

Ross averaged 3.7 points in fewer than 10 minutes per game his first season. While it looked like he was finally getting back to his game before his knee injury, he suffered another one.

Ross was in practice and he just landed, and his knee gave out. He had torn his right ACL, a second time.

“That one hurt me,” Ross said. “I knew I had to do what I did before all over again. It was hard. The second one, that hurt. That one hurt the most.”

So Ross went back to work with the rehab. Again, Ross came back and put up a few points in less than 10 minutes per contest.

But last season, all that hard work paid off.

Ross emerged as one of the Big 12’s top sixth men, averaging 12.5 points in conference play and 10.3 points in 22 minutes per game throughout the season to lead Texas Tech to its first NCAA Tournament berth in nearly a decade.

“I’m just happy I was playing,” he said.

But then Smith left for Memphis, and Beard came to Lubbock.

Another change. Another opportunity to leave.

Ross stayed.

Ross, a Little Rock, Ark. native, is familiar with Little Rock basketball.

After seeing what Beard was able to do there in one season, Ross was sold whenever Beard took the job in Lubbock.

“If you were from Little Rock and you’ve seen Little Rock basketball, it was different,” Ross said. “It wasn’t, like, exciting. Beard just changed it in one year. He had that crowd, the winning record. You’ve got to trust that.”

Final season

It’s a well-known joke that Anthony Livingston looks older than he really is.

At Big 12 media day in Kansas City back in October, Oklahoma’s Khadeem Lattin wondered why one of Texas Tech’s coaches was walking around with the players.

It was Livingston.

And he grinned as he thought about his friendship with Ross before he said, “He’s older than me.”

By six months.

“He took me in as a big brother and showed me what life was like in the Big 12,” Livingston said. “He’s taught me a lot.”

And Ross has learned a lot. His pregame playlist consists of plenty of Lil’ Boosie and Future.

When asked what he’d do if Thomas Brandsma — who only listens to country music — took over his playlist, Ross laughed.

“Ain’t no telling,” Ross said. “I heard a couple of songs that Thomas be listening to. I went to a few country concerts too already because of Thomas. It’s changing me a little bit.”

Ross — along with Livingston, Brandsma, Matt Temple and Devon Thomas — will be honored during Texas Tech’s senior day ceremony Wednesday evening. And once the season is over, Ross will be the first one in his family to graduate from college.

“I’m pumped,” Ross said. “I can’t wait to walk across that stage. I might do a little dance or something.”

Then Ross will be a Red Raider for life as he’s persevered through coaching changes, injuries and other adversity that most people would walk away from.

But Ross looked it head on and kept attacking.

“He’s a guy I have a lot of respect for,” Beard said. “He’s at Tech for all the right reasons. He’s somebody I’ve really enjoyed coaching.”

Projected starters

TEXAS TECH (17-12, 5-10)

Name Pos. Ht. Pts. Reb. A.

Evans G 6-3 15.6 2.7 3.1

Gray G 6-6 9.0 5.4 1.8

Ross F 6-8 9.3 2.7 1.3

Smith F 6-8 12.8 7.4 1.4

Livingston F 6-8 10.1 3.7 1.2

TEXAS (10-19, 4-12)

Name Pos. Ht. Pts. Reb. A.

Jarrett Allen F 6-11 13.6 8.4 0.8

Andrew Jones G 6-4 11.5 4.0 3.3

Kerwin Roach Jr. G 6-4 10.1 4.1 3.9

Shaquille Cleare F 6-8 8.0 4.7 0.5

Eric Davis Jr. G 6-3 7.9 2.6 1.1

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