Basketball has been like a metaphoric airplane for Ronald Ross. It has taken him on adventures around the world.
Greece, France, Germany, Italy, Croatia, Romania, Cyprus, Israel. All places that Ross has called his basketball home at one time or another.
Basketball has also led Ross to pockets of the United States he might not otherwise have visited, places like Albany, New York and Butte, Montana. And, oh by the way, basketball gave Ross the experience of playing for Bob Knight at Texas Tech.
Now, basketball has landed Ross right back where he started – in Hobbs, where he was part of three high school basketball state championships and where he honed his skills to be able to play Division I college ball before taking flight, literally, and dashing around foreign continents.
Ross, a 2001 Hobbs High graduate, has been hired as an assistant boys basketball coach for the Eagles, and will also teach science at the high school.
“Oh man, it’s an incredible feeling honestly, a little surreal,” Ross said. “I can’t believe I’m actually here. It feels right. I’m excited to get to work and make an impact.”
Ross was working at a sales position in the Dallas area, but is coming home to join his former Hobbs teammate Jeremy Soria on head coach Shelby Reeves’ staff.
“Shelby, he was really instrumental in my decision coming here,” Ross said. “I was going to take another job because there are a lot of great business opportunities in Dallas, but talking to Shelby I was like, ‘You know what? Let’s do it.’”
“I’m very excited to have someone like Ronald who is first of all from Hobbs, won championships with Hobbs,” Reeves said. “And then to move on to play college and professional basketball, to bring his knowledge here. And it’s good timing because we’re kind of starting over, we have young kids, so to have his knowledge is wonderful.”
“He’s such a fine, fine young man both on and off the floor,” Hobbs High athletic director Brenda Wilson said. “He fits right into our gold standard philosophy of coaching and education that we have in Hobbs. I’ve known Ronald since he was a student at Hobbs High School.
He’s been an outstanding leader in high school and college, and there’s no doubt he’ll be a leader for our Hobbs basketball kids.”
That will be paramount because as Reeves alluded to, the Eagles are looking to replace nine departed seniors. Ross should put a supercharge into the team’s reload.
“These kids know him, they know Ronald,” Reeves said. “They’re willing to listen, they know his journey.”
It’s a journey with roots tied to legendary Eagles basketball coach Ralph Tasker, whose name still resonates in part because it’s on the Hobbs High gym. Though Ross just missed out on having Tasker as his coach, beginning his varsity career after Tasker stepped down, he did already have the benefit of Tasker’s tutelage long before starting high school.
“I remember being in fourth grade,” Ross said, “and Tasker taking me very seriously, taking the time to work on rebounds or free throws with me.”
Russ Gilmore was Ross’ varsity coach, and Soria’s, and it was a good time to be an Eagle.
“I missed Tasker by one year, and Russ came in as the new head coach,” Ross said. “His first three years we won three (state titles) in a row, and they won one more after I left. …What made it so much fun is we were all really close friends. It was just a lot of fun from A to Z. A lot of memories for sure, but just thinking back on winning the state championships, and then about 10 minutes later thinking, ‘We’ve got to do it again next year.’ So I never got too high on the success; I was always focused on ‘Do it again, do it better’. At least that’s how I was thinking. I was never satisfied; I always wanted to one-up the previous accomplishment.”
As Ross was looking to continue his playing career in college, the legendary Knight was starting a new chapter of his coaching career at Texas Tech. He had been dismissed by Indiana University a year earlier after coaching the Hoosiers to three national titles, including an undefeated run in 1976. As Knight was heading into Tech, he offered Ross an exciting opportunity.
“Obviously they were making a lot of changes,” Ross said. “I went down there and visited with him. He really liked my game, and I was blessed to come in as a walk-on.”
Ross remained a walk-on for two seasons before becoming a scholarship player his third year, a team captain the following year.
Knight, famous for his hard-edged coaching style, made an impact on Ross.
“Everybody knows his demeanor was very serious, a very militant approach to how he was teaching his players,” Ross said. “I actually loved it, I embraced it. The way he taught was the way he pushed me, so it was really a win-win.”
Ross remembers other aspects of Knight’s style that made him an effective coach.
“His consistency,” Ross said, “and then his attention to detail. He was a very, very good teacher. … He knew how to dissect the game of basketball to where you had to choose for it to make sense or you couldn’t play for him.”
During Ross’ playing career with Texas Tech, Chris Beard – who later became the Red Raiders’ men’s head basketball coach and now holds that position for the Texas Longhorns – was an associate head coach under Knight.
Upon graduating from Tech in 2005, Ross entered the NBA draft. After going undrafted, Ross embarked on the professional playing career that allowed him the opportunity to see far-reaching places around the globe.
It was a hectic life in a career that lasted until 2018.
“It was a blessing,” Ross said. “I was able to stay healthy, have a long career, and got to win six different championships. … It was just an incredible journey that I was thankful that I got to do and enjoy.”
Ross worked on the Texas Tech men’s basketball coaching staff as a graduate assistant from 2018 to 2020, when current Red Raiders head coach Mark Adams was an assistant coach. Though Knight had long since retired, Ross still benefited from having played for him.
“100 percent, on and off the court, I’ve been able to apply what he’s taught me,” Ross said. “There’s so much that I’ve learned from all the coaches I’ve had. But you can feel the impact Coach Knight has had at Tech, not just on myself but on the game of basketball.”
Over the past two years, though not affiliated with a high school or university, Ross never stopped coaching. He coached and trained his daughter Xoey’s travel team based out of the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
But now Ross is back home, hoping to bring some of the basketball knowledge from all his travels, the knowledge he absorbed from Task-er, Gilmore, Knight, Beard, Adams and others, knowledge he hopes will help the Hobbs boys basketball team.
“He’ll be a great role model for the young men,” Wilson said. “Not only in our program but in the classroom.”
“I’m all in, man,” Ross said. “It was all or nothing. Once I get into something I like to be committed.”