Ingram Coming of Age

While Brandon Ingram is beginning to realize his potential, North Carolina is putting on the full court press.

Roy Williams visited the Kinston (N.C.) High junior for an open gym in the fall and then watched him play twice in December, including the championship game at the HSOT Holiday Invitational. And there have been a number of viewings by UNC's assistant coaches, especially his lead recruiter, Tar Heel assistant Steve Robinson.

"Coach Robinson, I speak to him a lot," Ingram said. "I speak to head coach Roy Williams a lot. They said they love my game, they love to see me attack the basket and be aggressive."

Ingram has made countless trips for games at the Smith Center over the last couple of years, but now UNC has taken the next step, securing an official visit. Ingram says he will spend the weekend of Jan. 26 in Chapel Hill in an official capacity, which will include UNC's game against Clemson. That's Ingram's first – and only – official visit scheduled at this time. It's also the first official visit UNC has scheduled with any member of the 2015 class.

The Tar Heels are certainly not the only school in the mix. Ingram also lists Duke, Florida, Louisville, NC State, Tennessee, VCU and Wake Forest.

He has made many visits to NC State and his enthusiasm for Duke is evident when he talks about newfound interest from the Blue Devils, the school he grew up rooting for.

When asked about which teams he's watched this year that have stood out to him, he cited three programs: "The transition play at North Carolina – they don't have a perimeter player right now but they're doing well without it; Duke has a lot of shooters and I love that; Louisville, they get after it."

His talk of a time frame for a decision has varied in recent interviews, but the one thing that is now set on the recruitment calendar is his first official visit.

"If I see something that I like I'd go ahead and choose, but I'm just sitting back and watching everybody," he said prior to scheduling the UNC trip.

Ingram showed at the HSOT Invitational that he's making significant progress with his game. He earned All-Tournament honors for his 19.3 points and 8.0 rebounds per game in leading Kinston to the title game, but the evidence was in the details.

He made clutch plays in the opener against Broughton HS, hitting the free throw that sent the game to overtime, then recording two key blocks, securing important rebounds and posting all of his team's points in the extra session.

"My first two years (at Kinston) I took a role of standing back and letting seniors score," he said. "My junior year, I've got a bigger role and the guys feed off me offensively and defensively."

In the semifinal matchup against highly touted Wheeler (Ga.) High, Ingram faced the top-rated small forward in the 2015 class – Jaylen Brown. Ingram answered the challenge, scoring the game's first six points.

"I heard about him before and knew he's a good player," Ingram said of Brown. "I knew I had to come out aggressive."

Brown's superior strength and athleticism got Ingram in foul trouble to limit his first-half minutes, but Ingram responded – and played through a nasty fall, in which he hit his head when a foul on a made three knocked him back into the water cart – with a 12-point third-quarter that included three-pointers, attacking off the dribble, and some strong defensive possessions against Brown.

"I had to keep playing – didn't want to let my team down," Ingram said. "I love to play with those guys so I had to fight through it."

Ingram displayed leadership, toughness, and a more aggressive mentality.

"He knows when and when not to (attack)," Kinston coach Perry Tyndall said. "I'm really happy he's started shooting more. He shoots it way, way too good - and attacks so well, too – (to not look to score more often). … He knows what we need him to do and he knows when to share, when to attack - and they know and trust their teammates.

"Brandon carries the load. We don't want to have one guy carry us, but we ask him to do a lot of things. He's developing. … He wears a lot of hats and we need him to wear a lot of hats for us to be successful … He's going to be fine. He's just going to continue to see a lot of junk, a lot of physical play – people are going to continue to throw a lot at him and he's done a good job handling that stuff and he'll continue to get better."

A 6-8, 180-pound prospect with a 6-11 wingspan, Ingram is demonstrating a greater comfort with his frame – which he says is still growing – and confidence in his game, which makes it easier to envision a player of his size at a perimeter position at the next level.

"In working on it every day, (my confidence comes from) seeing that when I do it one time I can do it again," Ingram said. "I'm learning about being more aggressive, being strong with the ball, using my versatility on smaller defenders.

"I'm getting more comfortable in my game – this is the year I bring it out. Putting it on the floor feels very comfortable to me now, putting on weight feels comfortable now.

"I'm still not satisfied."

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