Sophomore forward Ernest Ross celebrates after his teammate scored during the game against Austin Peay State University in PNC Arena on Monday, Nov. 7, 2022. Ross scored 6 points. The Wolfpack beat the Governors 99-50.

The injury bug hasn’t slowed NC State men’s basketball down at all this year with a bench full of athletes ready to make their mark doing so when their respective numbers are called. The most recent revelation for the Wolfpack has been none other than sophomore forward Ernest Ross, who’s seen a large uptick in minutes per game over the red-and-white’s last few outings.

Ross came into NC State as a higher-rated recruit than superstar sophomore guard Terquavion Smith, earning praise as a freakishly-athletic four that had a world of possibilities in front of him if he could find ways to align his skill and physical tools. Listed at 6-foot-9, 195 pounds, the sophomore has always had the size necessary to make significant contributions to the Pack’s success; he just needed the minutes and confidence.

In NC State’s thrilling 83-81 OT victory over then-No. 16 Miami, Ross found both. Playing a career-high 21 minutes against the Hurricanes, Ross exploded for 17 points on 80% shooting from the floor, tacking on nine rebounds and a steal. Making his statline even more impactful, six of Ross’ nine total rebounds came on the offensive glass, creating extra possessions and allowing his team to control the pace when he was on the floor.

If there was one word to describe his performance against the Hurricanes, it’s hustle. For a player posting 20-plus minutes for the first time in his collegiate career, Ross made it his mission to leave it all on the court — diving for loose balls, scrapping for any rebound he thought he had a chance at and seeing the floor like a veteran.

The clip above was the summary of Ross’ night — simply forcing Miami to make a choice of whether to shade out to a shooter on the wing or tighten up in the paint whenever graduate forward DJ Burns had the ball in scoring range. Whenever the Hurricanes committed to the double team, Burns made them pay — dishing the rock time and time again to whichever player Miami abandoned to sell out on the trap. The largest beneficiary of that expert passing was Ross, whose court vision and understanding of the space around him allowed him to dominate under the rim and score when it mattered most.

His contributions to the Miami contest, and Georgia Tech in the matchup after, were a welcomed sight for a team missing graduate guard Jack Clark for the past few weeks. Much like Clark, Ross has been all gas, no brakes on both ends of the court — consistently looking to make game-winning plays whether they reflect on the stat sheet or not.

Proving his quality of play isn't going anywhere as long as his minutes stay up, Ross put together an eight-point, three-assist, two-rebound and two-steal performance before fouling out late against the Yellow Jackets. Also staying true to what made his Miami performance so special, Ross’ offensive efficiency was through the roof — shooting a perfect 100% from the field by firing off on great looks, whether it was finding space through a backdoor cut or sinking wide-open corner 3s.

Obviously the numbers from the game against Georgia Tech aren’t as eye popping, but they don’t need to be. As a player surrounded by the offensive talent possessed by Smith, Burns, graduate guard Jarkel Joiner and senior guard Casey Morsell, any bucket contributed by Ross is just icing on the cake to what he does everywhere else on the floor. Much like redshirt junior forward Greg Gantt, Ross is making a living by doing the dirty work — something head coach Kevin Keatts has to be excited about with the home stretch of conference play quickly approaching.

As long as Ross is selling out to make plays like the one above, expect to see him as a mainstay in the rotation for the foreseeable future.

Managing Editor

My name is Wade Bowman, a senior in the Poole College of Management studying marketing. I've been at Technician since September 2020.