MEC basketball: Ross, UC women looking for more
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Throughout her two years at the University of Charleston, the opponent's scouting report of LeAnne Ross has always been a simple one: shooter.
Ross, a redshirt junior, has been a consistent scorer for the Golden Eagles, especially from 3-point range, but UC Coach Adam Collins wanted more out of his sharpshooter.
That is exactly what Ross has worked hard to give Collins, and her all-around game will be on full display when the Golden Eagles open their season Friday against Johnson C. Smith University.
The game will be played at West Virginia State University at 7:30 p.m. as a part of the two-day Mountain East/CIAA challenge. The host Yellow Jackets and Chowan University are the other schools involved.
"She is making a push for being an all-conference player instead of a shooter," Collins said of Ross. "She is really working hard on taking her game to the next level.
"What we are hoping for is that she becomes a more complete player. She always has been a great shooter and an explosive scorer. She can put up points in a hurry."
Ross is well aware of the shooter label placed on her, but she understands what Collins needs from her.
"That was my only title," Ross said. "Every time I played, teams would be like, 'shooter, shooter, don't let her shoot.' Coach talked to me at the end of last season and told me what I needed to work on.
"All summer long, I worked on gaining weight, especially in muscle. I gained 20 pounds of muscle this summer. I came in way better conditioned. It really has helped me a lot."
Collins has certainly noticed the difference in the Marietta, Ohio native.
"She is stronger in the weight room, worked on her ball handling, rebounding, defense, and can score off the bounce," Collins said. "She's just not someone who is going to stand out there and make shots."
Ross was originally recruited by former UC Coach Sherry win and didn't waver on that commitment when Winn resigned and Collins took over the program.
"It was tough because Coach Winn was so great and I really wanted her for my entire career," Ross said. "It was unexpected and unpredictable and was really hard adjusting so quickly.
"I honestly didn't consider leaving, though. I really wanted to come back. Not just for basketball, but I like everything about UC. Plus my entire family can come to every game."
Ross is a perfect fit for Collins' fast-paced offensive scheme that highlights the 3-point shot.
"At first you don't know what to expect," Ross said. "He started working with me and it was great knowing he hadn't been here but wanted to incorporate me with the game more.
"I really liked his system and style of play. It really fits me and is perfect for me. He says 'If you are open for the three, I want you to take it'." That works for me."
"We are going to play a lot of people and get the ball up and down the court." Collins said. "We now have great depth with competition at every spot. Anybody who mentioned a weakness, we have improved on it."
Ross was the second-leading scorer on the team last season at 10.8 points per game, but with Jessi Cowden's 14.4 points per game gone because of graduation, Ross is the leading returning scorer for UC.
Along with Ross, nine other players return for Collins' second year with the program, and with the recent additions as well, big things are expected.
UC was predicted fourth in the inaugural Mountain East Conference preseason poll.
"This team is a more complete team," Collins said. "We have a bunch of players returning and added a bunch. We have the talent, are headed in the right direction and think we can be really good this year.
Collins has a plan for building not just the UC program.
"The first year, you just get through it," Collins said. "In the second year, you are mixing both the players you inherited and some of your own players. The third year is the most important.
"That is the real excitement of the future of the program. Then you have two full years of the players in your system. Instead of having 10 players with experience, now you have 14."