DALLAS -- Coach Goree Johnson was just kidding when he told the gangly freshman that thick bifocals were banned from the Kimball High School basketball program.
But the kid with the funny glasses, which were equipped with a head strap when he was on the court, was nowhere to be found when practice began the next day. Quinton Ross hustled in about 40 minutes later with a new set of contact lenses.
In Johnson's mind, the story sums up Ross. He's a guy who is all substance, no style and will do whatever his coach wants. That's why the Dallas Mavericks brought Ross, a defensive-minded swingman, back to his hometown on a one-year contract.
"He's a coach's joy," Johnson said.
Ross doesn't argue with the description, although he insists he planned to get rid of the glasses even before the longtime Kimball coach cracked on him.
"They called me Urkel and all that," Ross said, smiling and shaking his head. "I had to get rid of them, man. I had to. It was just tough. Everybody used to make fun of me. That's tough as a kid."
Tough is a word often used to describe the 6-foot-6, 193-pound Ross, a late bloomer who starred at SMU.
Ross scrapped his way on to a loaded Kimball roster by playing tenacious defense, helping the Oak Cliff school win a Class 5A state title as a sophomore. A dozen years later, his career has come full circle. He hopes to carve out a niche as a defensive stopper on a talented Dallas Mavericks roster that expects to contend for a championship.
"If you wanted to play, you had to find a way to contribute on the court," Ross said of his early years at Kimball. "I always played hard. Defensively, I was always in the right spot trying to make plays. Hopefully, I can bring that same intensity here and get a little time on the floor."
Coach Rick Carlisle refers to Ross, who has worked hard to develop into an adequate 3-point shooter (37.5 percent for Memphis last season), as an opportunistic offensive player. But the primary reason the Mavs were interested in Ross is because he's a defensive pest who is comfortable as a complementary player.
Jason Terry compares Ross to Adrian Griffin, but with a better jump shot. That's a pretty high compliment, considering Griffin was a highly respected part-time starter on the Mavericks team that went to the 2006 Finals.
"He's a good role player who knows who he is as a player, doesn't try to do too much," Carlisle said. "He's a guy who is an effective defender at the 2 and 3 spot. In the West, you're going to be facing guys like [Manu] Ginobili and Kobe Bryant and [Tracy] McGrady. You've just got to have a lot of different guys to put out there. He'll be one of our guys that will play in those situations. We like him. He's a really solid role player."
Carlisle didn't mention Carmelo Anthony, but Ross' success defending the Denver star certainly caught the eye of the Mavs' brass.
Anthony, who was unstoppable in the Nuggets' playoff series win over the Mavs last season, struggled when he was harassed by Ross during the postseason. Anthony shot only 33 percent when Ross' Los Angeles Clippers eliminated the Nuggets in five games in the first round of the 2006 playoffs.
"He's a hell of a defensive player," Howard said. "I know what it's like to be pestered by him throughout the game. He's going to be a big help for us."
You don't need thick bifocals to see that.
Tim MacMahon covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.