Ingram's Confidence Growing

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- Three hours before North Carolina and Kentucky squared off on the very same floor, Brandon Ingram suited up and played at the Smith Center.

In this exhibition game between Kinston High School and the UNC JV squad, the junior got off to a fast start. By halftime, he had unofficial tallies of 18 points and seven rebounds.

The points came in a variety of ways -- three-pointer, put-back tip-in, baseline drive, runner, fast break dunk, post-up, and a cutting lay-up. And there were only two missed shots.

"It's like it comes natural in this building," Ingram said.

"Being in the Dean Dome, my second time playing here, I think I shot it well on this court. I like playing here."

The rest of the game was a different story. The UNC JV team – coached by Tar Heel assistant coach Hubert Davis – held Kinston to 15 second-half points, three of which belonged to Ingram.

Down by three points with mere seconds to go, Kinston had a chance to tie the game. Ingram didn't touch the ball on that final possession.

"I think I played pretty good," Ingram said. "Very aggressive in the first half, slowed down in the second half."

It was an accurate snapshot of where Ingram is with his game. He knows he needs to be more assertive and lead the team. While he's made progress there, he's not yet realizing his offensive potential on a consistent basis.

"Whatever I do, my teammates are going to look to me," he said. "It's a bigger role and I'm here to take it. I have confidence that I can take it."

His confidence is growing as he -- literally -- grows.

Ingram said he's now 6-8 and 180 pounds. That's an inch and 10 pounds more than his listing last spring. And it's two inches and 20 pounds more than the 2012 summer.

"I've been in the weight room a lot," he said. "Doing a lot of sets – repetitive – not a lot of weight but adding a little each time. I'm getting taller, so it's easier for me to score over defenders.

"Not during the season, but probably in the offseason I'll add a little (more) weight, getting to 195-200."

The increased confidence and increased explosiveness was evident in a first-half dunk over a defender.

"About a year ago I'd probably be scared to do that," he said. "I think I've been more explosive so I've been working on that a lot.

"I think I'm getting more aggressive and crashing the boards more. I'm just working on my game with getting to the basket more – because I'm labeled as a shooter, but I want to be labeled as a scorer."

North Carolina recognizes Ingram's current – and potential – versatility, but has him targeted for a specific spot in the lineup.

"They know I can play a lot of positions," Ingram said of UNC's projection. "They said if I happen to get taller I'll be on the block and I could step out and shoot it, too. But my primary position would be the ‘3.'

The Tar Heels have had Ingram on their radar for a couple years, but after extensive viewings of him on the summer circuit earlier this year, Roy Williams decided he'd seen enough to offer a scholarship.

UNC's interest has remained steady since. Williams attended an open gym at Kinston in September and made a trip last week to watch Ingram's game.

"(I've had) a lot of communication with Coach (Steve) Rob(inson)," Ingram said. "Coach Williams was at my game (last Wednesday). Me and Coach Rob have a good relationship and he's a good guy. And of course the Tar Heels have history, so looking back on that it's a great school to pick."

Ingram noted that he's "pretty cool" with current Tar Heels Marcus Paige and Nate Britt.

What schools comprise his current list?

"Right now Duke just came on the scene, so it'd be Carolina, Wake Forest, VCU, Florida, Louisville, NC State and Tennessee," he said.

When pressed for which schools were recruiting him the hardest, he added: "North Carolina is hitting my phone up a lot, Louisville and Florida."

The addition of Duke to his recruitment is significant because Ingram admitted, "Growing up I was really a fan of Duke," though he claimed that wouldn't make the Blue Devils the frontrunner if they offered.

"I'm not really looking at that – I'm looking at players I can play with and style of play," Ingram said.

If actions indeed speak louder than words, the campuses Ingram has visited the most are UNC and NC State. He attended six games at the Smith Center last season, and has already been in the building multiple times this season – including Saturday's tilt with Kentucky.

He says the campus visits will continue and a decision is still a ways off.

"There are things I'm still trying to learn because I look at the players that are coming in," he said. "And I'm looking to expand it and get out more: VCU, Wake Forest and trying to get out to Louisville."

While he didn't list Florida in that answer, Ingram noted the Gators were the only school thus far pushing him for an official visit (which, per NCAA rules, he can take starting next month).

"Right now I think I'll make my decision in the summer or after the summer," he said.

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