Seb Ross is glad he chose football over basketball
Most of the players who have basketball backgrounds, they're good in tight space with their handballs
YOUNG St Kilda midfielder Seb Ross drew comparisons to Collingwood star Scott Pendlebury when he was drafted, and the link is becoming clearer after an impressive run of form from the composed left footer.
After making his debut last year, Ross has emerged as a regular member of the Saints midfield this season, playing the last six games and winning a personal best 22 possessions against the Western Bulldogs last week.
His poise in traffic has been a feature of his game, with teammate Leigh Montagna saying this week: "He's always got that bit of time and space as a midfielder … he's got a lot of class about him".
Like Pendlebury, Ross had a promising junior basketball career that he chose not to pursue when faced with a decision between the two sports.
"I thought it'd be harder to break into basketball," Ross told AFL.com.au this week.
"In basketball there's only a starting five and in footy there's a starting 18.
"I just thought there's more opportunity in footy so I went down that path."
A small forward on the basketball court, Ross played for representative teams and made the last 30 cut with Vic Country a number of times without making the final side.
An inside midfielder on the football field, he has closely watched Pendlebury, who was on track to play basketball for Australia before he chose football.
"If you look around the League, most of the players who have basketball backgrounds, they're good in tight space with their handballs," Ross said.
"On the basketball court you're always working in traffic and have to find the right options, so I think that's where he (Pendlebury) gets the ability to do that from.
"Being an inside midfielder I do try and model my game on his a little bit because he's one of the elite in the competition."
The Pendlebury link aside, Ross isn't short for mentors at St Kilda, with Lenny Hayes, Nick Dal Santo and Montagna all valuable teachers for the 20-year-old.
He has also received help along the way from Brownlow medallist Jobe Watson, who is his cousin.
Ross said it was his young teammates, however, who helped calm the nerves on game day.
"Once you see a Jimmy Webster or a Jack Newnes running along beside you it just makes you feel a lot more confident out there and not as daunted," he said.
"We've got a fair few other young boys running around there at the moment, which I think helps ease the anxiety you can get.
"In my draft there was 11 or 12 new boys to the club and that's a fair percentage of the overall list.
"We're all pretty tight and knock around together."
A large part of Ross's role this year has been his defensive pressure, and he said his coaches weren't worried if he had a low-possession game as long as he was tackling.
He managed to do both against the Bulldogs, winning 22 possessions and laying six tackles, but he's not willing to label it the best of his seven games for the club.
"It's a bit hard for me to think it was my best game when the team lost," he said.
"I look back at the Carlton game when I had an alright game disposal wise and we had a pretty exciting win.
"That's probably my favourite game this year."
Nathan Schmook is a reporter for AFL Media. Follow him on Twitter: @AFL_Nathan