Donning the number 22 and standing at 6’4, there was one player for the Pride that the Golden Bears couldn’t contain on opening night of the 2016-17 basketball season. The newest addition to the Springfield College basketball team, freshman forward Jake Ross, had an unforgettable collegiate debut. Ross led all scorers as he splashed in 29 points, while leaping up and snatching 11 boards. He was also able to block three of the Golden Bears shots.
Ross’s remarkable debut led the Pride to an 80-69 victory over cross-town foe Western New England University on Nov. 15.
Ross let the game come to him, as he couldn’t find his shot. He sliced and diced the defense to attack the rack. Taking a few steps to control his dribble then exploding to the rim where he would either make the easy lay-up or get fouled and walk to the free throw line. Ross was efficient from the charity strike as he tallied seven of his nine attempts.
“Jake was huge for us [in his debut],” said junior captain Ben Diamond. “He took what the defense gave him, and a lot of the time that was scoring opportunities that he made the most of.”
The freshman had some pregame jitters but was able to get through it thanks to his team. “Letting the game come to me, believing in your teammates, it makes the job easier for everyone,” said Ross.
Ross’s selflessness was something that his captain appreciated. “He’s a win first type of player,” Diamond said. “He doesn’t care about his stats.”
Ross is one of the six freshmen on the team but he is playing as if he was one of the team’s veterans. Jake is older than most freshmen, as he comes into his first year with 20 years of life under his belt.
“He’s great at being the most person on the court at all times,” said Diamond. The junior captain was in awe after the freshman’s stellar performance. He had not been aware that Ross had finished with a double-double. “Jesus, talk about a debut.”
Through seven games, Ross is averaging 20.7 points per game and 10.4 rebounds per game. He is the only player in the NEWMAC conference to be averaging a double-double at this point in the season.
For the Springfield College community, Ross’s performance came as a shock, but to the people that knew him for a while didn’t expect anything less. From the pregame texts wishing Ross the best of luck in his upcoming game, to the barrage of messages asking “Did you hear about the first game?” was just another normal occurrence.
Ross’s longtime friend Michael Supernaw was shooting off texts at lightning speed after his “brother” played an incredible game. Supernaw traveled 40 minutes to Western New England to make sure he was a part of Jake’s collegiate debut. He did not leave the arena with any regrets. “[Jake] didn’t even get his shot going, he didn’t even shoot a three and he still finished with 29 points,” said Supernaw before another notification appeared with the message, “That’s scary.”
Ross is an important teammate on the court as well as off. Supernaw is one of his biggest supporters on and off the basketball court. Why? Because Ross is one of Supernaw’s biggest supporters as well. They are not biological brothers, but you would not know that unless they told you.
Michael Supernaw relied on Jake for the duration of a year to help get him back on his feet. Supernaw was “pretty much homeless,” after he hit a rough patch in life. Ross would pick up an assist by lending Supernaw money whenever he needed it, or buying Supernaw a meal to make sure he ate. “He’ll do anything for his friends,” said Supernaw. “And that humbles me.”
Ross receives that trait from a family that gives him endless support. He is of a family of five in which he is the youngest. Jack and Kristine Ross are his parents, and he has two older sisters Molly and Kait. “My family goes to almost every game,” said Ross. “My father is always there.”
Jake’s father Jack Ross a lawyer in the Springfield area was a collegiate athlete himself, though he never played basketball. Jack played hockey and lacrosse at Holy Cross in 1980. “He’s a sports junky, that’s where I get it from,” said Jake.
“I’ve never missed one of Jake’s events,” said Jack. “I’m happy he decided to go to Springfield College because I can still watch all [of] his games.”
Jake is an extremely competitive athlete that does not take any loss or problems with his performance lightly. Jack said, “It’s one of his best and worst qualities.”
“One time, Jake scored 35 points, but he came back and told me, ‘Yeah, but I turned over the ball six times,’” said Supernaw.
Jake also looks to his father for support after games that didn’t go to well, because he knows that he has been through similar situations. “I’d often have to take him to Friendly’s for an hour to bring him back down to earth,” said Jack.
Ross played three years of his high school career at Northampton High School, before attending prep at Williston Academy and redoing junior year.
During his time at Northampton, Jake was able to reach the milestone of 1,000 points. Northampton is coached by Rey Harp. Jake credits a lot his accomplishments to coach Harp, and still keeps in touch with him. “Coach Harp made me love the game,” said Ross.
While wearing the Blue Devils blue and gold, Ross found himself going up against current teammate and former rival, Andy McNulty. McNulty is now one of the captains for Springfield. In high school, McNulty played for Northampton’s rival, West Springfield.
Throughout the years Ross and McNulty both had their moments of triumphs and defeats. Their final matchup came in the second round of the 2013 MIAA Western Massachusetts playoffs. McNulty’s Terriers would go on to defeat Ross’s Blue Devils by 15 points.
This was the same game that Ross was able to score his 1,000th point and his last time suiting up for Northampton. “He would have rather won the game than get his 1000th point,” said Jack Ross.
McNulty is glad that the rivalry is over, and that they are both working towards the same goal. “I knew he could help us right away,” said McNulty. “He’s a guy just like me. He’s competitive and wants to win, while playing the game the right way.”
Ross is not only going to play basketball for the Pride but he is also a part of the men’s lacrosse team. Playing two sports at the college level is no stroll in the park, but he is well prepared. During his time at Williston he played both lacrosse and basketball.
Ross experienced some fatigue when it came to the game of basketball, which led to him wanting to take on another sport. That choice led him to Springfield College. At the Division II level, athletes are forbidden to play two sports. “It’s refreshing for me to go play a different sport,” said Ross. “My heart’s in basketball but I think I could have a better career in lacrosse I’m physically more gifted in [lacrosse].”
Ross believes that Springfield was a perfect fit and is excited for the years to come. “I just get a good vibe here,” Ross said. “Everyone cares about each other and [is] selfless.”
For now, Ross is still all in for the Pride’s basketball team. Springfield will continue to look for Ross to contribute greatly moving forward. “If he can do it in game one, he can do it throughout the year” said Diamond. “He’s one of the dogs now, one of the Birthplace boys.”
Ben can be reached on Twitter at @BRivera9_