Lehigh senior guard Kahron Ross dribbles the ball at the Patriot League Championship game at Bucknell University on March 8, 2017. Ross concluded his last regular season with a senior night game against Lafayette College at Stabler Arena Saturday. (Sarah Epstein/B&W Staff)

Faith and facilitating: Ross leaves Lehigh and PL as all-time career assists leader

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Star senior guard Kahron Ross of Lehigh men’s basketball has always had a team-first mentality.

It’s what’s allowed him to excel as an individual, a player and a leader.

It’s what’s allowed him to unselfishly create opportunities for his teammates.

It’s what’s allowed him to become the all-time career assists leader at Lehigh and in the Patriot League.

“I think if you have that kind of mentality, you’ll be more successful rather than just trying to get your numbers,” Ross said. “I think if you put the team first, everything else will take care of itself.”

Ross started playing basketball when he was 5 years old. He said his dad, however, claims he handed Ross a basketball as soon as he was born.

Basketball runs deep in the blood of the Ross family.

“My entire family plays basketball,” Ross said. “So, it’s been in the family and something I’ve always had a passion for.”

At Jonesboro High School in Arkansas, there’s a basketball hall of fame that one or two accomplished players are added to each year. Ross was the most recent member of his family to be recognized, joining his uncle and his dad.

Ross said there was no pressure from his dad and mom — who also played — to choose basketball, even though they were two of the main reasons he ended up pursuing the sport.

“They always let me make my own decisions,” he said. “They would just be there for support.”

Ross said his parents are two of the biggest role models and supporters he has.

They try to attend as many games as possible, but the times they can’t make the trip, they each have their own pregame ritual with their son.

Before every game, his mom sends him a long text, and his dad prays with him on the phone.

Ross’ faith has been an important part of his basketball career since he was young.

“I’ve always had a tremendous faith,” he said. “Whatever you’re going to do, just pray about it, and everything else will take care of itself. Trust the process.”

The process led Ross to Lehigh, where he made his dream of playing at the Division I level come true.

He said the university was the right fit at the right time, even if it was a 15-hour drive from home.

“I wanted to go out on a ledge and try something new and make it difficult at the same time, because I knew it would help in the long run,” he said. “I think I made a good decision.”

When he first saw Ross play, coach Brett Reed noticed he was a “wizard with the ball” and had a “strong, competitive spirit.” Reed said Ross’ speed allowed him to maneuver anywhere on the court and he had a natural ability to create opportunities for others.

“When you have someone who is unselfish and has the ability to create for others, he actually has been a catalyst for improving our unselfishness on our team,” Reed said. “Part of the reason we’re successful on offense is each and every one of our players is more than willing to make an extra pass, and I think Kahron (Ross) has helped kind of set that model and example by the way in which he plays and approaches the game.”

Ross made an impact from the start of his career, garnering Patriot League Rookie of the Year honors as a freshman. He’s earned all-league honors each season as a Mountain Hawk.

While Ross came in as a quiet, soft-spoken player who led by example, he said Reed challenged and helped him to grow into more of a vocal leader, a role he’s stepped into as one of the team’s captains the past three years and the only senior this season.

Ross’ co-captain junior guard Kyle Leufroy said his first impression of Ross was the calmness, composure and control that make him a natural-born leader.

“He’s just a really good leader,” Leufroy said. “He always leads with his play. He’s always somebody that we can just look up to and know he’s always going to be able to lead the team and be in control and take charge when we need him to.”

Leufroy has watched Ross mature and grow over the past few years into the leader he is today.

He said he’s thankful for the brotherhood the two have formed and the high standards Ross has set to be the best leader, person and player he can be for himself and for his teammates.

“He’s one of the best point guards to come through here, one of the best players I’ve ever played with,” Leufroy said. “It’s been an honor to play by his side and see how he makes everyone around him better. Being able to be around him these past three years and the brotherhood and the love that we formed for one another is immeasurable.”

Ross said he couldn’t have done it without his teammates, who refer to him as “the best point guard in the league.”

“I give credit to the coaching staff, putting those guys around me to help make me better, and I think I help make them better as well,” he said. “Over these last four years, I think coach Reed has put the right pieces around me, and they’ve fit really well.”

Ross said everything came together when he achieved his biggest accomplishment as a Mountain Hawk and became the all-time career assists leader at Lehigh and in the Patriot League earlier this season, something Reed describes as an “unbelievable accomplishment” and a “tremendous recognition.”

Ross hadn’t even known he had passed the university’s mark until his teammates told him after the game against Mount St. Mary’s University on Dec. 9, 2017. He said he remembers sitting for a few minutes and taking in how surreal the moment was.

As his time at Lehigh comes to an end, Ross said his plan is to continue following his dream of playing at the highest level possible.

But for now, Ross has his sights set on winning the Patriot League Championship game, a title he said the team has been so close to these last few years.

“The difference has been the small things,” he said. “We’ve always had a talented team. We’ve always had enough talent to win. It’s just, we’ve never been good at the small things, which separate you from being the championship team. I think this year, we have another great chance, and I’m excited.”

The Mountain Hawks will host the Patriot League quarterfinals on Thursday against Boston University for their final run behind Ross’ leadership. It’s clear that whatever the outcome is, Ross’ legacy won’t be defined by his numbers but by his ability to always put the team first.

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