Who would have thought that someone who bounced around the PBA (three teams) in his first four years would end up as one of the league's best guards?
During the 2009 rookie draft, amid the Japeth Aguilar fiasco, the Coca Cola Tigers exercised its third overall pick on a wily, 6'1" Fil-Am guard from San Antonio, Texas. The rights to draft that year's PBL Most Valuable Player was originally owned by the Burger King Whoppers, which then received Ronjay Buenafe and the Tigers' 2010 first round pick in exchange for the services of Ross.
Before he even got the chance to settle in with the team, he was traded to the Sta. Lucia Realtors for Paolo Mendoza. Ross still managed to norm 4.5 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 2.6 assists, despite playing just a little under 17 minutes per game in his rookie campaign.
After Meralco bought the Sta. Lucia franchise in 2010, the promising guard looked like he had finally found a home with the Bolts. His second year proved to be his breakout season—he averaged 8 PPG, 6.2 APG, 5.4 RPG, and 2 SPG, while almost doubling his MPG (32.5) as starting point guard.
Injuries and his biggest flaw, a broken jump shot, soon got the better of Ross, who saw his numbers plummet during his next two campaigns. Shortly after Meralco acquired Mike Cortez, Ross was swapped with Chris Timberlake for Gary David and AJ Mandani of the GlobalPort Batang Pier.
In the same month that he was dealt, he was traded again to the Petron Blaze Boosters—now SMB—for another experienced guard, Denok Miranda. And the rest, as they say, was history.
Ross would eventually help the Beermen to capture the 2015 Governors' Cup crown and back-to-back 2015 and 2016 Philippine Cup titles, the last of which he was even named Finals MVP. Currently, the former PBA journeyman has led his team to a 2-1 series lead against the Barangay Ginebra Kings, in search of an All-Filipino conference three-peat.
As a part of Leo Austria's 'Dura-Boys' (from the word durable), Ross has turned up his play in the Finals, dominating his Ginebra counterparts with 19 PPG, 9 APG, and 4.7 RPG in 37.7 MPG, marked by his 24-point, 8-assist, 4-rebound performance in Game 3.
What spelled the difference for the once-expendable player?
For one, the stroke and confidence of his sharpshooting teammates Marcio Lassiter and Alex Cabagnot may have been rubbing off on Ross. For someone who you can basically leave at the three-point line (18.5% for his career), he is enjoying his most decent clip from beyond the arc (23.9%) since his second season with San Miguel, when he attempted 53 threes in 54 games (made 13 for 24.5%).
In the first 17 games of the season, Ross has almost matched that mark already with 11 makes, and it appears he's not yet done—just ask Ginebra coach Tim Cone. Those extra shots after practice with Lassiter and Cabagnot are sure paying off.
Also, the extended run under Austria (32.5) seems to be doing him some good. This has been the longest time he has spent on the court since his sophomore year and we all know that Ross isn't the kind to waste such opportunity. He has rewarded his coach's trust with career averages of 8.2 PPG, 6.2 APG, and 5.4 RPG.
At the end of the day, though, defense remains to be the pesky guard's calling card of choice. Opposing backcourts have to be extra wary when matched up against Ross, who is norming a career-high of three steals per game. His ability to strip the ball, along with the monstrous rebounding of teammate June Mar Fajardo, are the vital cogs in the Beermen's running game.
Ross has come a long way since his days as a movable piece. He is the epitome of the PBA being a league of second chances, that one team's discard can be another squad's treasure. Ross turned out to be a perfect fit for the San Miguel system, cementing his place in a lineup that is loaded with superstars. And with the way he has been showing out, what a haul San Miguel has made.
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