Terrence Ross, the slam dunk contest winner with semi-local ties

February 19, 2013

I spent a little time in Maryland. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Toronto Raptors rookie Terrence Ross made a name for himself during All-Star Weekend when he claimed the slam dunk title on Saturday, providing the highlight of an otherwise blah night with a 180-degree wraparound dunk. But Ross’s name might already be familiar to some locally.

A 22-year-old native of Portland, Ore., Ross spent nearly two years at Montrose Christian in Rockville, orally committing to Maryland before eventually backing out. He also was a dark-horse candidate for the Wizards during last June’s NBA draft.

Ross has been on a unique basketball journey ever since he was named Oregon player of the year as a sophomore after leading Jefferson High to a state championship. Home-schooled by his mother, Marcine, Ross later transferred to Montrose Christian to play for Coach Stu Vetter, who also helped players such as Kevin Durant and Greivis Vasquez reach the NBA. Ross was named an All-Met as a junior but now admits that the transition was difficult.

“I was really just reaching the peak of my game, at least in high school and it was tough leaving all my friends, all my teammates and really going to the other side of the country, all by myself. It was tough,” Ross said recently. “A lot of crazy things went on. It was some good things, some bad things, but I thought, me and my mom thought it was best for me to come back, because things just got too political at Montrose. It didn’t work out.”

Ross eventually returned to his high school in Portland, nearly two months after he backed out of his commitment to Maryland and opened up his recruitment to other programs.

“That all had to do with Montrose,” said of his commitment to Maryland. “So it wasn’t really my decision at the time. I got out of it. That’s all that matters.”

Unable to play his senior year at Jefferson because of transfer rules, Ross went on to play college basketball at Washington and declared for the NBA draft after two seasons. The Wizards had long targeted Bradley Beal for the No. 3 overall pick, but they needed him to be available, because several teams had expressed in interest in acquiring the shooting guard from Florida. So Ross was among the players Washington considered, along with Harrison Barnes, especially after having a dazzling workout with the team.

“I don’t know. It’s hard to say,” Ross said, when asked if he ever thought the Wizards had seriously considered him. “I think they already had their mind set on Brad. Could it have been a possibility? Who knows? If Brad had been picked by somebody else, maybe, but it’s highly unlikely.”

The Raptors took Ross eighth overall and he is averaging 6.4 points and 2.1 rebounds as a reserve, but he hasn’t received much playing time since Toronto acquired Rudy Gay in a deal with Memphis. During the preseason, Ross said he would stay committed to getting better. “I had to work my entire way up,” Ross said. “If you’re picked sixth, you’re going to have to work, picked eight, picked first, you’re going to have to work, no matter where you’re at. It really doesn’t make a difference to me.”

Ross also admitted that the time he spent away from home in high school probably helped prepare him for life on his own in a new country. “It made me more independent,” he said. “Being by myself isn’t as tough. It helped me a lot. It helped me develop and kind of be on my own and take care of myself.”

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Michael Lee | February 19, 2013