The best part of Marcellus Ross’ statistical line in St. Joseph’s season-opening, statement-making victory over Atlantic City wasn’t the 38 points.

It wasn’t the trio of three-pointers.

It wasn’t even the 11 free throws.

It was further down the list to the nitty-gritty stuff such as rebounds (six), assists (four), and steals (three).

“When I first came here, I was a sniper,” Ross said. “My job was to shoot from the outside, shoot the three.

“But all I’ve done since then is work to become a more complete player.”

The 6-foot-3 Ross still is a scorer, first and foremost. He was averaging 29.3 points through the Wildcats’ first three games, all victories. He was on pace to crack the 2,000-point mark for his career.

But it’s no longer correct to refer to Ross as a one-dimensional player, just as it’s short-sighted to regard St. Joseph as a feisty little team with a large chip on its shoulder.

Ross has evolved and so have the Wildcats.

“He’s really developed other parts of his game,” St. Joseph coach Paul Rodio said of Ross. “People might still think of him as just a scorer. He’s so much more than that.”

The same might be said of the Wildcats, although Ross and Rodio know the program still has its skeptics in the course of its hard push into South Jersey prominence.

With Ross leading the way along with fellow seniors such as Corey Blackwell, Ian Brown, and 6-foot-10 Malik Bailey -- as well as 6-foot-8 junior Alanas Urbonas, a transfer from Lithuanian by way of Canada -- the Wildcats have the look of a team that can compete with any squad in the area.

The lopsided win over Atlantic City, a perennial power that went through an unsettled preseason as a result of the uncertain status of veteran coach Gene Allen, was among the most impressive victories in Rodio’s five seasons.

“That was a statement,” Ross said. “Atlantic City is Atlantic City. They’re a great program and they have a great coach.

“But I have so much confidence in our team, in Coach Rodio and in myself. I believe we’re one of the best teams in South Jersey and we’re determined to prove it.”

Ross lives in Sicklerville. He opted to attend St. Joseph at the urging of former Wildcats standout Jordan Herrin, a family friend.

In Ross’ career, St. Joseph has made steady improvement.

“First, we had to try to get relevant,” Rodio said. “Then we wanted to be competitive with some of the better teams. Now we’re trying to be able to compete with some of the elite teams.”

Ross has made steady improvement, too. Once a player who focused on scoring, Ross has worked to become a better defender, rebounder, and facilitator.

“He wants to get everybody involved,” Rodio said.

Ross, who has scholarship offers from NCAA Division II programs such as Georgian Court and Caldwell, said he is proudest of his role in helping the Wildcats raise the status of the program.

“We’ve all worked so hard and gotten better and better,” Ross said. “We know there still are people out there saying, ‘Oh, St. Joe is not that good,' or ‘St. Joe is not one of the better teams around.’

“That motivates us. I 1,000-percent believe we’re going to show people how good we are this season.”