SALISBURY -- After attending six schools in seven years, Dameon Ross found happiness at Salisbury State, which hopes he'll settle in for a long stay on the Eastern Shore.
The Sea Gulls continue their quest for an NCAA Division III championship tonight at 8, when they play host to Salem (Mass.) State in sectional play. Salisbury State has the leading candidate for national Player of the Year honors in senior forward Andre Foreman, but it probably wouldn't be one of the 16 teams left if Ross hadn't come its way in August.
"Obviously, we had a nice returning team," said coach Ward Lambert, who directed the Sea Gulls to the NCAA tournament last season. "When Dameon came in, however, the picture changed. He gave us a whole new dimension."
Ross is a 6-foot-4, 175-pound guard who, together with Foreman, heads a team scoring 101.1 points a game.
Ross, averaging 24.6 points, has hit 79 three-pointers, close to three a game, and is the Sea Gulls' second-leading assist man and third-leading rebounder. In an up-tempo style that stresses constant pressure and three-pointers, Lambert values Ross' ability to keep shooting when he's not hitting.
Ross missed his first seven shots in last week's NCAA tournament opener against Kean (N.J.), but scored 18 in the last seven minutes of the first half to keep Salisbury State in it. He finished with 30, the fifth straight game in which he was the Sea Gulls' leading scorer.
"At one point against Frostburg State, Dameon was 4-for-24 from the field," Lambert said, "but then he made a huge shot near the end. He was off that game, but it didn't bother him. I don't think you can shake his confidence."
It's a mind-set that hasn't been adversely affected by several transfers and a two-year absence from college basketball.
His travels began after his sophomore year at DeMatha High, when he transferred to DuVal, the Prince George's County public school near his Mitchellville home. Ross starred on a losing team his senior year, and was lost in the glare of a county class that included Maryland's Walt Williams (Crossland) and Vince Broadnax (Suitland), Duke's Brian Davis (Bladensburg) and the Phoenix Suns' Jerrod Mustaf (DeMatha, Maryland).
Ross received a scholarship to Old Dominion, but left Norfolk, Va., after three semesters because "I didn't feel I had a future there." He wasn't the only one. His freshman class included Terrance Jacobs and Chris Kerwin, who would resurface at Towson State and Maryland, respectively.
Ross spent spring 1990 doing odd jobs at a restaurant in Greenbelt, and enrolled the following fall at Allegany Community College. He was down the line on Bob Kirk's roster, too, and never played for the Trojans. The next spring, Ross took a single course at Prince George's Community College.
"I guess you could say it's been a whirlwind year," said Ross, a communications major. "Last summer, I had no direction, and now we're two wins away from the Final Four. Things have turned out well for me. If I tried to stay in Division I, my eligibility would have been limited, but I've got two more years left here."