Boys Basketball: It’s all in the family for Oak Park-River Forest’s Thomas Ross

Story Image Oak Park Saturday 12/17/11 Oak Park's#43 Thomas Ross and Hinsdale's#24 Brad Anlauf haul down a loose ball. | Jerry Daliege~for Sun-Times Media

Updated: July 11, 2012 2:59PM

Thomas Ross has learned to fight for his position on the basketball court as a 6-foot-8 senior center for Oak Park-River Forest.

Ross’ battle in the athletic arena may have started at home. Ross is one of three post players for the Huskies expected to dominate next season for the defending West Suburban Silver champions.

At home, Ross is the third of 13 children by Gary and Kimberly Ross of Oak Park. He has six sisters and another brother on the way with the expected berth of Emmanuel in August.

When asked about living in a home with 13 kids, Thomas said smiling, “Whatever’s in the fridge, eat it.”

Now that Thomas has become a senior, a Ross family member will represent each class at OPRF. His sisters, Keishay and Rachel, will become a junior and sophomore. His brother, Gary, is an incoming freshman and plans to try out for the basketball team. He’s 6-1.

For the Fourth of July, the Ross family went to an aunt’s house. Because the family keeps growing, they can no longer travel together in their van. It’s too small. Thomas said they need two cars to travel together.

“I try not to be there a lot,” Ross said. “I’ll go to my uncle’s house or my auntie’s house sometimes.”

Thomas didn’t start playing basketball until the seventh grade and will become one-third of a potent three-headed center combination with 6-9 Virgil Allen and 6-7 Tacourrus Mattox.

Mattox, one of Thomas’ best friends on the team, could name only three of Ross’ siblings. Mattox has three siblings of his own. When asked, Mattox could name Samone, Jared and Mala Chi Ross.

In birth order, spanning ages 21 to 3, Gary and Kimberly’s children are Samone, Jared, Thomas, Keishay, Rachel, Gary, Mala Chi, Abram, Divine, Phillip, Charity, Hezikan and Vanna.

Gary works for an electrical company and Kimberly is a stay-at-home mom. Both parents come from very large families of their own.

Thomas said Kimberly is one of nearly a dozen brothers and sisters and his grandmother on his father’s side has given birth to 13 children.

“I have a lot of cousins,” Thomas said.

Former Buffalo Grove girls basketball star Ellen Ayoub was the oldest of eight children in her family and confessed that one of the biggest struggles was sorting socks in the laundry each week.

The Ross family uses a different system. Older children are assigned a different day to do their own laundry.

“You take your own dirty clothes to your section of the basement,” Thomas said. “You can put it off on your day, but you still have to wash your own clothes.”

The younger kids receive help from mom or other siblings.

Ross is playing this month with a new AAU team filled with teammates from the basketball program. The all-OPRF Illinois Huskies lost their first game 50-47 to the Northside Warriors in the Judson University Summer Regional tournament Saturday. But the team rebounded to win the tournament title Sunday for the Boys High School division behind coach and former OPRF player Aaron Levin, the older brother of recent graduate and star Gabe Levin.

A sponsor for the team fell through, so the Illinois Huskies are scheduled to compete in only one more tournament this weekend in Oswego.

“We’ll take it week by week as we try to find tournaments,” said senior guard Alex Gustafson, whose father Wendell founded the team.

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