Monté Ross faces familiar, unknown as next NC A&T hoops coach

The former Delaware coach spent the last three seasons at Temple as an assistant

Monté Ross, pictured in 2014 when he coached Delaware, was named North Carolina A&T’s new men's basketball coach last week. (Elaine Thompson / AP Photo)

GREENSBORO — This year was North Carolina A&T’s first in the Colonial Athletic Association. The Aggies will enter next season with a men’s basketball coach who knows his way around the school’s new league.

Former Delaware Blue Hens coach Monté Ross was introduced last week as the 14th head coach in the history of the A&T men’s basketball program.

“I was excited and my family was excited,” Ross, who spent the past three seasons as an assistant at Temple, told NSJ. “They knew it was something that I wanted. I think there was an extra bit of excitement because of the league that A&T is in — the CAA — and the familiarity that I have with that. A couple of the (current) coaches were assistants when I was a head coach there, and now they’re head coaches too.”

Ross replaces interim coach Phillip Shumpert, who led the Aggies to a 13-19 (8-10 CAA) record and a sixth-place finish in the school’s first season in the CAA after being elevated to the position when the school abruptly fired Will Jones in August just a few weeks before the start of official practice for the 2022-23 season.

The Aggies get a coach who is both familiar with North Carolina and the CAA.

Ross, 53, played four years at A&T rival Winston-Salem State under legendary head coach Clarence “Big House” Gaines before spending 13 seasons as a Division I assistant coach at various programs.

In 2006, the Philadelphia native began a 10-year head coaching stint at Delaware where he became the Blue Hens’ second-winningest coach in history with a 132-184 overall record. Ross was named Colonial Athletic Conference Coach of the Year in 2014 after leading his team to a conference title and NCAA Tournament appearance.

“Coach Ross brings a decade of head coaching experience in the CAA, where he was tasked with building a program,” NC A&T Director of Athletics Earl M. Hilton III said in a press release. “He had some outstanding seasons for the Delaware men’s basketball program, and we think that translates well for us at North Carolina A&T as we strive to win championships in the CAA. We hired the best person to lead and mentor our young men on and off the court.”

Ross will be tasked with building a program that has been hit hard by the transfer portal this spring.

Six Aggies — including top scorers Marcus Watson (14.2 points per game) and Kam Woods (17.3) — have entered the transfer portal since March 13. Four-star prospect Duncan Powell, redshirt freshman guard Chase McDuffie, sophomore guard Trey Crews III and sophomore guard Love Bettis also decided to part ways with the school.

Ross admits that the increased activity in the transfer portal makes it difficult for smaller schools to keep burgeoning talent around, especially when Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) deals are factored into the landscape for prospective college athletes.

“I think there is a bit of frustration because it’s the unknown, and as coaches, we always want to deal in the known as much as possible,” he said. “This state of college athletics is the great unknown at the end of the year — for most teams, if not all teams.

“You have to be able to adjust, and most of the coaches that have learned to adjust are successful down the line. If you bring in a freshman and that freshman knocks it out of the park, there’s going to be a lot of times that people are going to be telling them that they can go play at a high level.”

One positive turn is highly sought-after shooting guard Marquavious Brown — a four-star high school prospect out of Georgia — signing his letter of intent with the Aggies last week, providing a needed boost to the roster’s guard depth.

Brown had originally committed to Georgia but reopened his recruitment last year and received offers from Kansas State, Missouri, South Carolina, Texas Tech, UAB, VCU, Washington State and Xavier. He eventually committed to Georgia State but again backed out before signing with A&T.

While currently recovering from an early-season injury and surgery in December, Brown is expected to be ready for the first game of the 2023-24 season.

“I’ve only gotten a chance to see highlights of him because he was committed to Georgia State prior to signing on with us,” Ross said. “Once we start the practices and workouts, we’ll know exactly what he has and what he can do. He’s coming off an Achilles injury that has limited him the last couple of months, but we’re looking forward to him.”

And the school is hoping Ross can lead the Aggies to its first winning season since 2017-18.