Coming off the bench and filling up the box score is quite a tool to have in the sport of basketball. Back in my glory days of 7th-Grade A-Team basketball, I was the tenth guy on a ten-man team (hey, four of our five starters on that team have played or are currently playing DI basketball, I was not that bad). Even as a twelve-year-old, I knew my role on the team--take a couple charges, shoot some outside shots, it is not the worst thing in the world if you get into foul trouble, etc. My only option was to embrace that role if I wanted to stay on A-Team, which I did. Picture Brian Cardinal as a point guard, that was me.
The point being, guys that come off the bench in basketball have to know and embrace their role. Whether you are a scorer, a defensive presence, or a minutes-eater, you have to realize what you can best do for the team.
Aaron Ross is going to have a great argument for Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year.
Ross, a junior forward from North Little Rock, Arkansas, has been a huge puzzle-piece on this season saving winning streak the Red Raiders are currently on. Ross is a nightmarish matchup for opponents. He cannot only bang in a 3, he can go down low and devastate opponents with his back-to-the-basket post game. On top of everything else, he is Tech’s best man at the charity stripe (86%).
When Norense Odiase went down with a knee injury on January 18 at TCU, head coach Tubby Smith looked to Ross and junior Matt Temple to replace Odiase. Temple has filled in nicely as a starter, setting the tone at the beginning of the game defensively. Ross gets his minutes in later off the bench, adding a major offensive presence for Tech. Since that Odiase injury, Ross has been averaging 15.1 points per game for the Red Raiders.
A great example of his ability to score in multiple ways can be seen here:
As you can see in the beginning of the clip, Ryan Spangler is playing far off from Ross prior to Ross receiving the pass. Ross already knows he is going to shoot before he even receives the pass. With just that little bit of room, Ross is able to nail the three.
Later in the game, Ross once again gets the ball at the top of the key. At first, he looks to shoot the three, with only five seconds left on the shot clock. After making a couple of 3's earlier in the game, the OU defenders close out on Ross. Instead, Ross puts the ball on the deck and lays it up high off the glass with one second remaining on the shot clock for a huge bucket, tying up the game at 54 with six minutes to go. Ross’ ability to score from both the outside and inside has affected the fours and fives in the Big 12 considerably.
Ross not is only a crucial part of Tech’s playoff March chances, he is the best sixth man in the Big 12.
Credit to ESPN and the BIG 12 for the clips.