All Matt Ross has ever wanted was the chance to prove he’s a professional-caliber basketball player.
The Dixon native is getting it over the course of the next 2 weeks.
Ross was drafted by a coach in the Australian professional league for a showcase event July 10-17 in Las Vegas. Should the 6-foot-8 forward impress Joey Wright of the Adelaide 36ers, a professional contract Down Under may be in the big man’s future.
“This is probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I want to take full advantage of it,” Ross said. “I really don’t know how it’s going to go, but I get four games to show Coach Wright what I can do. If he likes what he sees, we can go out afterward and talk about a contract to join his team’s roster.”
It seems Ross has returned, in a way, to his previous forays into the college recruiting process. The 2010 Dixon High School graduate went through that twice, first signing to play for the Sauk Valley Skyhawks for two seasons, then turning his success there to a 2-year stint with the Division-I Chicago State Cougars.
Ross now has his sights set on playing the sport he loves for a living, but he’s not alone in sifting through the offers coming in. Agent Joe Tyler does the legwork, and presents Ross with the best options.
“It takes a lot off my shoulders, not having to do all the negotiating,” Ross said. “Every team who wants to talk to me, they can bother him instead.
“I’ve got one shot in Vegas, and we’re riding this right now because that offers the most money. But if things don’t work out with this team, other teams in Germany and Spain also want to sign me.”
With the likelihood of heading overseas looming ever larger, Ross has also relied on former teammates to help get his mindset in the right place for a possible long move away from his home state.
Jeremy Robinson and Quinton Pippen, both former Chicago State teammates, have experience playing outside the U.S., and Pippen’s uncle, Scottie, is an old hat at the nuances of professional basketball. Ross is eagerly soaking up as many pointers as they have to offer.
“Between those three, they’ve told me things to do and things not to do, certain people to talk to and not to talk to,” Ross said. “There are different areas of different countries where it’s worth going to play, because you know you’re going to get your money on time, and other places where it’s not as good. It’s a whole new learning process, and nothing is ever set in stone, but I’m ready for whatever comes next.”
Ross has returned to Dixon during the interim, but is doing all he can to stay in basketball shape for whenever the call comes. He lifts weights and rides an exercise bike 10 miles everyday, and has access to Dixon High School to workout and work on his game.
Even with all the uncertainty, Ross is ultimately where he always dreamed he’d be.
“This is probably one of the greatest moments in my life right now,” he said, “and I’m excited for the possibilities. It’s to the point now where it’s either going to happen or not, and I’ll either continue on with basketball as a career, or have one door close and find something else open up for me.”
Matt Ross file
High school: Dixon, class of 2010
College: Sauk Valley, class of 2012; Chicago State, class of 2014
Ht./Wt.: 6-foot-8, 220 pounds
Chicago State stats: 714 points (11.0 ppg), 446 rebounds (6.9 rpg), 75 blocks, 64 steals, 58 assists in 65 games (61 starts) over last 2 seasons
Honors: Chicago State Scholar Athlete, 2013 & 2014; 2014 Academic All-WAC; 2013 All-Great West honorable mention; 2012 All-NJCAA Region IV second team
FYI: Was selected to play in showcase for Australian Professional League July 10-17 in Las Vegas.