Missouri senior guard Earnest Ross has worked hard on his three-point shot.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
Ross, who played his first two seasons at Auburn, stays after practice religiously to get extra reps from long range and has spent countless hours each summer refining his shot.
Of course, during the Tigers’ first two games, Ross was a little too eager to show off the fruits of that labor.
Ross attempted 18 shots from the field in wins against Southeastern Louisiana and Southern Illinois, including 12 from beyond the three-point line. He made five, but Missouri interim coach Tim Fuller wants to see more versatility in his game.
“Earnest is our best athlete,” Fuller said. “He runs faster than anybody on our team. He’s stronger than anybody else on the team. He jumps higher than anybody else on the team. But he has fallen in love with shooting the three, because he’s worked very hard on it.”
During the Hawaii game, Fuller issued an ultimatum.
“I called him over to the side and I said, ‘If you shoot another three, I’m taking you out, so drive the ball,’” Fuller said. “Sometimes, you have to be that point blank with him.”
It’s proven to be good advice.
Ross didn’t hit any threes against the Warriors, but still contributed 12 points — mostly off driving layups or on free throws after getting to the rim.
Against Gardner-Webb on Saturday, when Missouri shot a dismal two of 14 from three-point range, Ross’ ability to get into the paint and use his athleticism allowed him to be the Tigers’ leading scorer with 17 points.
“I’m comfortable when I get an open look or if I’m in my spot, so it was something I did fall in love with early,” said Ross, who is third on the team at 13 points per game. “Now, just seeing that I can get to the rim and create for others, it’s something I’m trying to do for my team now.”
That aggressiveness hasn’t gone unnoticed. In fact, it’s something Missouri hopes to see more of as the season goes and the schedule gets tougher.
“He’s like a linebacker coming through the lane, so I don’t feel like he should settle for the threes,” junior point guard Jordan Clarkson said. “Take it to the basket and go through people’s chest, because when he’s aggressive it helps our team a lot.”
With NCAA officials cracking down on hand checks and rough defensive play, it is easier for players to slash into the paint, which means it’s also more important for players such as Ross to muscle into the lane.
“He’s a big, strong guy, so it’s going to be tough for guys to keep him out of the lane,” junior Jabari Brown said. “He’s going to get fouled a lot. He’s an athletic specimen and can definitely do it all.”
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.