Quartz Hill center Troy Ross can recall a time when his life, let alone his basketball career, did not appear so promising. All he must do, he admits, is look back to his days as a 15-year-old freshman at Jefferson High in South Central Los Angeles. “I was just involved with the wrong people back then,” the senior recollects. “I didn’t play ball at all. There were some things I needed to get away from and I came to Quartz Hill to start a better life.” Ross, who averages team highs of 18 points and 13.6 rebounds for the Rebels this year, was immersed in the violent gang scene in Los Angeles. Schoolwork was of secondary importance and his grades dropped so low, just graduating high school seemed like a challenge. But despite the moderate success, Ross still experienced setbacks. According to Highland coach Jeff Smith, Ross was known to lose his temper in games, complaining to officials and at times berating teammates. It was not until Quartz Hill defeated Highland of Palmdale 60-44 Jan. 6 that Smith noticed a difference in Ross. “Troy has really matured a lot this year as a person and a player,” Smith said. “He is still very powerful and he will not back down to anyone, but it seems like he has learned to contain his temper this year.” Ross, who Nichter considers still too raw to be considered a legitimate Division I prospect, has 14 double-doubles in his first 19 games this year, surpassing the five double-doubles he had in 26 games last year. With their top two scorers from last year – Lawrence Tyson (24.4 points per game) and Nate Forte (17.6) – lost to graduation the Rebels (9-10, 2-2) have already lost more games overall and in league than they did last year. But Quartz Hill defeated league-favorite Lancaster (11-7, 3-0) 70-64 Dec. 21 in the San Fernando Valley Tournament. The Rebels will face Lancaster twice this year in league – Jan. 13 at Lancaster and Feb. 3 at Quartz Hill. More importantly to Ross, though, than his 14 double-doubles and his success on the basketball court is the fact that he now boasts a grade-point average better than 3.0 and is finally on pace to graduate on time. Along with his family and teammates, much of Ross’ gratitude goes to Nichter. “Coach Nichter has helped me so much,” Ross said. “He’s like another dad to me. I call him all the time about anything.” It is a soft side that Nichter has seen many times before and the reason he and Ross have bonded so well over the past few years. “Troy has a big heart and he’s really a good kid,” Nichter said. “He’s got a tough exterior and all, but he’s a big softie.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGift Box shows no rust in San Antonio Stakes win at Santa Anita But Ross relocated to Quartz Hill with his family as a sophomore and began attending Quartz Hill High. While assimilating to his new home, Ross began the arduous task of making up the requisite classes to graduate. In the process, Ross’ 6-foot-5, 274-pound frame caught the attention of boys’ basketball coach Bernard Nichter. Initially skeptical of Ross’ inexperience and his troubled background in Los Angeles, it did not take long for Nichter to notice Ross’ potential on an off the court. “I’ll be honest,” Nichter recalls. “I really didn’t think too much of Troy’s (basketball ability) at first. If you would have told me he’d be this good a few years ago, I would have called you crazy. “But what I always like to do in evaluating talent,” he continued, “is play with the kid before I judge him. When I played with Troy for the first time, I realized he was impossible to move. I’ve never coached anybody so naturally strong.” By his junior year at Quartz Hill, Ross was playing a significant role on a Rebels team that finished 19-7 overall and first place in the Golden League at 9-1. Ross averaged 7.8 points and a team-high 9.4 rebounds per game.