Marcus Patterson was back to living his dream.
The Bronx, New York, native took a chance and used $3,000 of his own money to travel to Portugal last summer to play in a basketball tour.
It turned into Patterson signing a professional basketball contract to play for the Portimonense Sporting Clube of the Primeira Liga, and going on to having a great season.
Patterson scored a team-high 21.7 points a game and was the league’s third leading scorer before the season was cut short due to the global coronavirus pandemic.
All that success seemed out of reach for Patterson back in 2018 when he was recovering from an ACL injury and managing feelings of depression.
The Sage College of Albany alum had just returned to the United States after earning his master’s degree in applied science at the University of East London where he also played for the school’s basketball team.
It was a big move overall for Patterson. His mother had recently moved to New Jersey and Piscataway would now be his home.
The move to Piscataway ended up being the best thing for him, he said.
Patterson rose to success at Sage where he earned first-team all-conference honors as a senior and was named the school’s 2016-17 Male Athlete of the Year.
His stay in London showed him he had the ability to live his dream of playing professional basketball.
“I didn’t see myself playing professionally until my senior year,” Patterson said. “I had a really good senior year and got the chance to go overseas to London and play at the college level there. I got the chance to practice against the London Lions, who are a professional basketball team there as well. It was a great experience.”
Now down in New Jersey, Patterson searched all over Central Jersey to try and connect with a trainer who could help him take his game to the next level for another shot at playing basketball overseas.
Through the help of Instagram he found East Brunswick native Joe Ross.
Ross had been training youth, high school, college and professional basketball players for the last three years.
Like Patterson, Ross was a Division III basketball player himself, playing at Ithaca College, and was a three-year varsity player for the East Brunswick High School boys basketball team.
During the summer of his college years, Ross worked as a basketball counselor at Lakeview Day Camp, East Brunswick Basketball Camp and Hoop Group Elite Basketball Camp.
His work with his brother, Matt, and other members of the East Brunswick squad helped the team go 18-9 during their 2015-16 campaign.
The East Brunswick High School alum also had the opportunity to be a student intern for the Cornell University Men’s Basketball team during the 2014-15 season.
Once he graduated college and came back home to East Brunswick, Ross started training more East Brunswick athletes like Amir Bell and Rob Ukawuba, who were both Division I college basketball players at the time, and had aspirations of playing professionally after college.
That grew to Ross training other Division I players in the area like Saint Joseph High School alum Quenton DeCosey and North Brunswick native Jared Nickens, who both have gone on to play professional basketball.
“I’m always available to help anyone take their game up a level,” Ross said. “I try to help out kids from the area get better as much as I can. I’m always trying to help.”
Patterson liked what he saw from Ross and the two decided to team up.
It was a perfect match as Patterson was able to improve his game under Ross’ training and build a good relationship with the East Brunswick native.
During his college days, Patterson played as a stretch power-forward most of the time. Ross knew that Patterson’s height at around 6-foot-3 would make him a little undersized for the position at the professional level. He thought the best bet for Patterson was to transition to being more of a wing player, meaning helping him improve his shooting and his ball handling skills.
With Patterson’s hard worth ethic, the two were able to help him develop all the fundamental tools to succeed on the wing.
“It really helped me take my game to the next level,” Patterson said. “It helped me attack the basket more and be a facilitator by getting more guys on my team involved.”
Being able to train with professional players like Jesse Jones and Sterling Gibbs was also important in helping Patterson improve his game, he said.
All those tools, Ross believed, would help Patterson become even more of a playmaker.
After Patterson signed his contract to play in Portugal, he FaceTimed Ross to tell him the good news and the trainer couldn’t have been happier for his client.
“I was so happy for him,” Ross said. “He is one of the hardest working guys in the gym. He is always working out at game speed and is locked in. Felt great to see his hard work pay off.”
Patterson took advantage of his opportunity in his first year in Portugal, earning second-team all league honors.
Because of COVID-19, Patterson is back in Piscataway working out with the resources he has available to keep him ready for his next opportunity at the professional level.
Ross has since continued to train basketball players at every level in the area and around the state.
Last summer, Ross held his own basketball camp called Joe Ross Shooting and Skills Camp for children ages 8-17 at the Central Jersey Basketball Sports Complex in Morganville. He said he hopes to hold the camp again this summer if restrictions are lifted.
There is still an unknown with the pandemic, but Patterson said he is not letting it slow down his excitement to get back on the court the first chance he gets.
“I’m hungry to get back on the court,” Patterson said. “I’m trying to improve my game the best I can and compete at the highest level.”