Brandon Ingram was one of the most highly sought after players in the class of 2015, a lengthy 6-foot-9 small forward with a smooth shooting stroke and a nice scoring skillset off the bounce. Ingram didn’t have the typical end to a high school career as many McDonald’s All-American’s do.
Instead of participating in the AAU circuit in the summer of 2014 before his senior year of high school, Ingram decided to play for his high school team, who competed at an event in his home state of North Carolina. The weekend prior, Ingram had a successful performance at a high-profile event in Chicago – the 2014 Adidas Nations – averaging 13.5 points over a four-game stretch on solid shooting percentages.
His success at the Adidas Nations only validated Ingram’s offer list from the bluest of blue bloods in Kentucky, Kansas and UCLA, as well as in-state offers (and who Ingram would ultimately choose between) in Duke and North Carolina. NBA Draft sites and projections for his skillset translating to the league after a one-and-done season became prevalent. Scout.com’s director of basketball recruiting recognized his immense talent immediately follow the performance:
“That performance really stood out in my mind,” Daniels told Kentucky.com. “He’s a long, wiry combo forward that can really score. … He was making jump shots. He was going off the bounce and hitting floaters. He showed great touch with his finishing moves around the basket.
“Physically, he’s not strong. And that hurts him to a degree. But he’s so long and he’s really starting to get a lot more comfortable handling the ball and going off the dribble.”
NBADraft.net called him “Kevin Durant-lite” following the performance at Adidas Nations, Ingram was bumped up to a “five-star” recruit across all recruiting sites. All of a sudden everyone knew Ingram’s name. But that didn’t change Ingram’s mentality of staying close to home and build team chemistry for a high school team that was trying to win their fourth state title in four years, which had never been done at the 2-A level of high school basketball in North Carolina. Ingram knows importance of the Kingston tradition:
“I’m very proud to be part of the Kinston tradition,” Ingram said. “People know you because you’re from Kinston and they look up to you because of that. There are Kinston fans everywhere.”
Part of that tradition comes from past home-grown NBA talent; Kingston is the birthplace of legendary NBA players Jerry Stackhouse and Cedric Maxwell, and also spawned current Detroit Piston and former UNC star Reggie Bullock. Ingram made himself arguably more known among the three with his performance, scoring 28 and 10 rebounds while winning Most Valuable Player honors on his way to a record fourth straight state title (it’s also Kingston’s sixth in eight years, for those keeping track).
Ultimately, Ingram would decide to take his talents to Duke and will likely be a lottery selection after a successful freshman season. NBADraft.net currently has him slotted in the lottery at pick number eight. DraftExpress.com slots him at pick number four on their mock draft. Chad Ford has him rated fourth overall on his top 100.
With another loaded roster, expect Duke to be another dominant team capable of easily making a run to the national championship again despite uber-talented freshmen leading the way. Coach K has certainly done more with less, but expect him to use Ingram similarly to when the last time he had an elite wing player like forward Jabari Parker.
Coach Krzyzewski’s best asset as a coach is his flexibility to change with his personnel.
Utilizing a talent like Ingram should be fascinating to watch, because at 6-9 with a 7-4 wingspan – where will Coach K play him? He might be best as a power forward, capable of bringing lesser athletic opponents out on the perimeter and blowing by them with a quick first step. Could Ingram possibly initiate some offense from the wing? I expect Coach K to try many different scenarios as he progresses throughout his freshman campaign.
In the end, I expect Ingram to be lottery bound in 10 months. His skillset, length and versatility scream major upside for any NBA team. Ingram looks like a potential All-NBA swingman, so it’ll be interesting to see his development at Duke and where he projects after a season at the college level.