BASKETBALL: Former Red Raiders star Ross has found niche in Europe

A Croatian pop star performed at Permian High School on Friday and Saturday.

It’s likely that no one realized it, though, because Ronald Ross was thousands of miles away from his adoring fans in the Balkans. He also was playing the part of a professional basketball player from Hobbs, N.M., which is Ross’ primary vocation.

For now, anyway.

The 31-year-old Ross, a former Texas Tech All-American who has been playing in Europe for the last eight years, competed with Team Sam’s Bar-B-Que in the 33rd Annual Juneteenth Basketball Tournament this weekend. Earlier in the week he was on stage as Jus Ron, touring in Croatia with the musical group Klapa Godimenti and rapping on its hit song “Nazovi me svojim,” which in English means “Call me yours.”

“I’ve always done it all my life,” Ross said of singing, rapping and writing songs. “It’s random, but it took off. It’s really, like, something serious.”

Ross isn’t sure where his budding musical career will take him, but he’s not yet ready to give up his day job. The 6-foot-2 guard has carved out a successful basketball career overseas, having played professionally in Croatia, Germany, Greece, Israel and Italy.

During the 2012-13 season he played for Jolly JBC in the Croatian A1 League, leading his team to the semifinals and leading the league with averages of 20.6 points, 3.6 assists and 2.8 steals per game. Ross finished last season with the Apollon Patras in Greece and said he’ll likely sign with a team in Turkey for next season.

“Basketball’s been really good for me over there, so I’ve been very blessed to be able to play and stay healthy,” Ross said. “It’s only getting better and better for now, so I think I’ll play for about six more years and maybe call it quits.”

In the Juneteenth tournament, hosted by Permian boys head coach Danny Wright, Ross played for a team organized by Odessa High graduate Tiki Davis. The team consisted of a handful of Hobbs natives, including one-time UTEP player Ervin Youmans, and Davis referred to Ross as a “ringer.”

He wasn’t the only former college standout in the two-day tournament — even some current college players were competing — but Ross was the most accomplished. He led the 2004-05 Red Raiders, who were coached by Bob Knight, to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.

“He’s a very good player,” Youmans said. “I think he’s still playing at a high level.”

Ross said he spends only about two months out of the year back home in Hobbs, where he played for three state championship teams in high school, but he’s still managed to make a few appearances in the Juneteenth tournament over the years. This year he helped Team Sam’s Bar-B-Que reach the championship game, which was held late Saturday night.

“This is like a home-away-from-home tournament,” Ross said. “We love coming down here and playing with these guys. There’s a lot of great payers around the area and good competition.”

Ross said he’s still approached by Texas Tech fans who want to relive his glory days wearing red and black, and he said he’s grateful for that time in his life. Ross was a walk-on during his first two seasons with the Red Raiders, becoming a starter as a sophomore and earning a scholarship following that season, and by the time he was a senior became a team captain, All-Big 12 Conference performer and All-American.

Ross said he still keeps in contact with Knight, who has been lobbying for his former pupil to become a basketball coach. Ross said that figures to be a “serious option for me” when his playing career is over.

So is music, and at some point that could even become Ross’ focus.

“If that takes off, that’s going to shut down everything,” he said with a laugh. “But we’ll see.”