TOC: Earnest Ross Spotlight

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – For a young prospect to lead his older teammates, he must be mature beyond his years. Earnest Ross has that covered.

The 6-4, 205-pound rising junior from Cary (N.C.) Panther Creek is advanced physically, with a muscular build that fuels his strong drives to the basket, and combines that with a charismatic and confident personality that enables him to not just compete among his peers on the CP3 squad, but to in fact lead them. And it's a self-appointed role.

"My role is as a team leader, to get us to come together and play as a team," Ross said at this weekend's Tournament of Champions. "If I see us breaking up, I'm the guy to get us back together."

This carries into his selfless approach to the game. On Friday night, his team benefited most from his defense, rebounding and dribble drives. They didn't need jump shots, so he didn't take any.

"I was just trying to get everybody involved," Ross said. "I like going to the cup. You just didn't see the jumpers tonight; I try to go for what the team needs more.

While he still has two years of high school left to fine tune his game (and grow – "I'm supposed to be 6-8 before my senior year," he said), Ross realizes he must improve his perimeter skills in order to play as a wing in college. And if his game is able to attain the necessary skill level, he plans to play in the ACC.

Ross said coaches from Wake Forest, UNC, NC State, Clemson and Virginia Tech have visited Panther Creek to see him play in a game or open gym practice. He's already visited Wake Forest and NC State and said he intends to visit UNC, Clemson and Virginia Tech, though noting that he expects to attend a college within his home state.

Should the North Carolina staff choose to pursue him more seriously, they will have an ace up their sleeves – or, more specifically, a Tar Heel in Ross' corner. Panther Creek's head coach is L.J. Hepp, a former UNC graduate assistant

"I love Coach Hepp," Ross said. "He's a real good coach and can take me a long ways."

But does he provide a regular Tar Heel influence?

"He's more about where I'm comfortable at and helps me," Ross said with a laugh.

When asked his thoughts on playing in the Smith Center Friday night, Ross looked up into the rafters in awe.

"This is my first time – it's even better than I thought it was," he said smiling. "It looked smaller on TV."

Earnest Ross Profile

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