BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. – Josh Ross’s first couple of trips up and down the court weren’t the best Friday night. The Orchard Lake St. Mary’s senior forward missed a blockout on the defensive end against rival Brother Rice, then committed a turnover on the offensive end.
Ross is part of Michigan’s heralded 2017 football recruiting class, but his focus now is on his basketball team. St. Mary’s coach Todd Covert sensed Ross was a little too amped up for the moment.
Ross was playing in just his fourth game of the season. Injuries he played through while leading the Eagles to a third straight Division 3 state football championship in November were given time to heal, but while Ross is getting into basketball shape his team has dealt with a three-game losing streak.
Covert made a substitution barely two minutes into the game. It’s not something he has done often, if ever, with Ross. Covert told associate head coach Len Karschnia it would be the exact right button to push.
“Playing on the road, having lost three in a row, he will go in there and he will create holy hell from now on,” Covert told Karschnia.
Ross and St. Mary’s ended their skid in dominating fashion, 60-21. Ross’s stat line won’t jump out at anyone. He scored one basket and grabbed a couple of rebounds, but when he got back in the game he gave his team exactly what Covert expected. Ross played tough defense, jumping out on shooters and cutting off driving lanes. He kept balls alive with tipouts.
“It’s not fake. It’s real.”
Michigan pursued Ross hard as part of this class, which has been ranked No. 5 in the country by 247Sports’ composite ranking system, because the effort he gave Friday night is the same he brings to the football field.
“He’s a once-in-a-lifetime kid. (Ross) is the most humble, down-to-earth (person), cares about other people, cares about the team,” Covert said. “He is the last guy to look at rankings, the last guy to see who’s ahead of him or behind him. He’s all about the team, and it’s not fake. It’s real.”
Ross is the younger brother of former Michigan linebacker James Ross, but it wasn’t a given he would be a Wolverine. The hiring of Jim Harbaugh changed that.
“People don’t believe me, but their (his family’s) main thing was they wanted me to go to the best place,” Ross said. “They didn’t want me going to Michigan at first just because they weren’t doing too well and the coaching staff (uncertainty). But Michigan is a great place, and my brother going there definitely paved the way.”
Ross was rated a 4-star recruit, the No. 9 inside linebacker in the country and the No. 3 overall player in Michigan by the 247Sports composite. He was named captain of the Detroit Free Press Dream Team, an all-state collection of players that includes seven of the eight in-state recruits Michigan landed this month.
“This class was legendary,” Ross said. “We had so many good guys, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Ambry Thomas. The top six guys in the state going to Michigan. That’s unheard of. We’ve got a real good class and we’re going to be real close by the end of our senior year.”
Ross has worn No. 5 at St. Mary’s in football and basketball. It’s been his favorite number since he saw Reggie Bush playing at Southern California more than a decade ago.
“He was doing things nobody else could do,” Ross said. “He was the best player on the field. Every little kid looked up to him growing up. Everyone wanted to wear No. 5.”
That jersey number belonged to Jabrill Peppers the last couple of years at Michigan. Although Peppers won’t be back next season, having declared for the NFL Draft, Ross said he’s been assigned No. 12. That’s not a concern of his. He’s got bigger goals.
“I’m not thinking about the number in my first year. I just want to play,” Ross said. “I’m looking forward to playing in front of 100,000 people. It’s going to be fun, and it’s going to be like no other experience.”