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EGGERS: Terrence Ross, Mr. 51, says 'it was a shock type of moment'

by: COURTESY OF NBA - Terrence Ross captures the 2013 NBA Slam Dunk Contest.In the days after his 51-point outburst against the Los Angeles Clippers, life has turned upside down for Terrence Ross.

"Everybody has been texting me, calling me, congratulating me," says Toronto's second-year swing man about his performance in the Raptors' 126-118 loss Saturday night at Air Canada Centre. "I've been talking to so many people. It's just weird. I don't think anybody expected it. It was a shock type of moment."

Things returned more to normal Monday night after Toronto's 104-103 win over Brooklyn. Ross had 10 points on 3-for-9 shooting in the victory. That was more in line with his season average of 10.2 points -- and that was after the 51-point barrage.

Ross' showing against the Clippers was on a short list of the most unlikely individual games in NBA history.

He became the fourth player ever to score 50 or more with a career scoring average of fewer than 10 points (7.4).

The former Jefferson High Demo entered the game averaging 9.3 points -- the lowest average of 307 players who have scored 50 or more since 1963.

His previous career high was 26 points -- including six 3-pointers -- as a rookie in a 102-79 rout of Portland last January.

But when the teams walked onto the ACC hardcourt for tip-off last Saturday night, Ross produced his "shock type of moment."

He sank 16 of 29 shots from the field, 10 of 17 from 3-point range -- including a 30-foot bomb to end the third quarter -- and 9 of 10 from the free-throw line in a dizzying 44-minute display.

The 6-6, 195-pound Ross, who turns 23 on Feb. 5, tied the franchise scoring record set by Vince Carter in 2000.

"I guess I was just showing my ability," says Ross, who will be with the Raptors Saturday when they visit the Moda Center to face the Trail Blazers. "My shot was going down. It was just a really good night for me."

It was more than just a really good night, Toronto coach Dwane Casey says.

"It was one of the most amazing offensive performances I've seen in my years in the NBA," says Casey, in his 20th season as a head or assistant coach in the league. "Especially for a young guy in the growing stages of his career. For him to be able to do that … I was really excited for him."

After the game, Clippers guard Jamal Crawford -- a Seattle native familiar with Ross from his two seasons at the University of Washington -- gave Ross a hug and whispered a few words. What did he say?

"Good game," Ross said, "and welcome to the 50-point club."

Crawford, who popped in 37 points himself on Ross' record-matching night, is one of the four players ever to enjoy a 50-point game at the ACC.

Such a night wouldn't have been possible if not for the Dec. 9 trade that sent small forward Rudy Gay to Sacramento. Part of the reason for the deal was saving money by unloading Gay's high salary. The other part was to open up playing time for Ross.

"It really was," Casey says."The front office did a good job of recognizing the need for that. The move helped the organization in so many ways -- financially, and to give the young man a chance to grow. No disrespect to Rudy, but we believe Terrence has a chance for an even better future. Plus, Rudy and DeMar (DeRozan, Toronto's starting shooting guard) are very similar with their style of play."

Prior to the Gay trade, Ross was coming off the bench and averaging 6.5 points -- with four scoreless outings -- and 25 minutes while shooting .418 from the field and .407 from 3-point range with 3.3 rebounds.

In the 24 games since, mostly at small forward, Ross has averaged 13.1 points and 29.8 minutes, shooting .421 from the field and .429 from 3-point range with 3.8 rebounds.

"It's made a big difference," Ross says. "It gave me an opportunity to prove himself and show what I can do on the court. I tried to prepare my best for the opportunity. You can only in improve in practice so much. Watching is fine, but you realize how important the game-time experience really is when you're out there."

Ross didn't get as much of that as he wanted with Toronto last season after being chosen out of Washington with the eighth pick of the 2012 draft. He started two games and was in the rotation as a rookie, averaging 6.4 points on .407 shooting, including .332 from 3-point range.

"It was a learning experience," Ross says of his first NBA season. "I was trying to get used to how the (NBA) game is played, trying to figure out all the things that are different. I enjoyed it. I did OK, but I knew there were things I had to improve on."

One of those things wasn't dunking. He won the slam dunk contest during All-Star Weekend and scored on plenty of the high-flying jams through the season. He knew he could shoot the 3, but needed to become more consistent with it.

"He has improved on that and everything else," Casey says. "The No. 1 thing he had to work on was consistency. He would show flashes of that offensive brilliance, and then, all at once. he would disappear.

"It's typical of young players. This year, he has been more consistent in his approach. He has been constant with his defense. We've put him on some of the top offensive players, and he has done a commendable job with them."

In two meetings with Indiana this month, for instance, Ross had primary defensive responsibility on Pacers star Paul George, who scored a collective 23 points on 35-percent shooting.

"Defense is something I've always taken pride in, especially in college," Ross says. "That's where I really learned to defend."

Some NBA observers consider Ross to have the potential to be more of a franchise-type player than DeRozan, a shooting guard who seems likely to be named to the All-Star Game on Thursday. Casey won't say that, but it's clear he likes having the chance to work with such promise.

"Terrence has a big growth area available to him on the offensive end," Casey says. "He can shoot, but now he must recognize when it's time to drive, to put the ball on the floor, to run pick-and-rolls concisely.

"I think he can become a big-time player. He can jump with the best of them. He's quick and can run. Once he learns to play on a consistent basis, he can be a star in this league for a long time. He's nowhere near where he's going to be. He's just scratching the surface."

After his career performance against the Clippers, Ross presented the game ball to his mother, Marcine Parker, who still lives in Portland.

"I knew she would like to have it," Ross says. "She likes memorabilia. I thought it would mean a lot to her."

Parker and Terrence's 6-year-old brother, Drew, will be at the Moda Center Saturday. Terrence's sister, Taelor, is a 6-2 sophomore and starter at Seattle University, so she'll be busy.

Ross says he can't wait to get back home to visit with family and friends. But he's not unloading the vault to put together a rooting section.

"I have eight tickets, mostly for family," the former Oregon Class 5A Player of the Year says with a laugh. "Anybody else will have to get them on their own."

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Twitter: @kerryeggers