NC Central’s Ingram tougher than he looks

CorrespondentMarch 20, 2014 

SPORTS BKC-NCCU 3 RA

North Carolina Central's Jeremy Ingram works on his shooting form during the Eagle's practice on Thursday, March 20, 2014, at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas.

ROBERT WILLETT — rwillett@newsobserver.com

  • N.C. Central (14) vs. Iowa State (3)

    When: 9:50 p.m.

    Where: AT&T Center, San Antonio

    TV/Radio: TNT

    Projected starting lineups

    N.C. Central (28-5, 15-1 MEAC)

    G Emanuel Chapman 6.8 ppg, 6.5 apg

    G Jeremy Ingram 20.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg

    F Alfonzo Houston 9.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg

    F Karamo Jawara 7.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg

    F Jay Copeland 8.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg

    Iowa State (26-7, 11-7 Big 12)

    G Monte Morris 6.2 ppg, 3.8 apg

    G DeAndre Kane 17.0 ppg, 6.7 rpg

    F Dustin Hogue 10.7 ppg, 8.6 rpg

    F Georges Niang 16.5 ppg, 4.4 rpg

    F Melvin Ejim 18.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg

    N.C. Central moves on if ... it finds a way to slow down Iowa State’s trio of scoring threats in DeAndre Kane, Georges Niang and Melvin Ejim. That means defending the low post and taking away the baseline.

    N.C. Central goes home if ... Iowa State gets off to a fast start, expands the lead to double-digits early and makes the Eagles come from behind to win.

    Edward G. Robinson III

— Jeremy Ingram’s choirboy looks belie the truth about his lethal basketball game.

“He fools you with that,” N.C. Central senior Emanuel Chapman said. “Until he gets in the game. He’s fire.”

With his slim build in his black Armani suit, white shirt and skinny tie – covering his tattoos – the baby-faced Ingram might remind some of an alto in N.C. Central’s gospel choir rather than the leading scorer on the men’s basketball team. But his unassuming appearance hides a dynamic basketball game, one that has helped the Eagles make history this season.

Behind Ingram’s prolific scoring, the Eagles won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament last week and earned a berth in the NCAA tournament, where Friday the No. 14 seed will face third-seeded Iowa State in the second round at the AT&T Center.

The Eagles (28-5), playing in the school’s first Division I NCAA tournament, have compiled accolades at an impressive rate and enter Friday’s game on a 20-game winning streak. Coach LeVelle Moton, in his fifth season, was named MEAC coach of the year and the league tournament’s outstanding coach.

Collecting trophies beside Moton, Ingram has scored 680 points (20.6 ppg) this season, the most since Ted Manning’s 825-points during the 1964-65 season.

The fourth-year senior, who led East Mecklenburg to an N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A title in 2010, brought his championship shooting form to Durham. The 6-foot-3, 175-pound shooting guard was named MEAC player of the year and the tournament’s most outstanding performer this season.

Ingram has dreamed about this moment since he started shooting.

“When you’re growing up you’re watching March Madness and you know you want to play with the big teams,” Ingram said. “You want to play Division I basketball. You always dream of being on the big stage. To be finally here is great.”

This season has seemed like one big stage and he’s known what to do under the spotlight.

In three MEAC tournament games, Ingram scored 73 points, including a 30-point performance against Howard and 29-point effort in the final against a hard-guarding Morgan State. Moving with fluidity and poise around the court, he once again demonstrated his ability to score – from everywhere.

He made 3-pointers with hands in his face, wrap-around layups, off-hand layups, set shots, fade-away jumpers and pull-up jumpers after dribble-drive moves.

Ingram’s career-high 38 points came at Savannah State in February. He’s scored 30 or more points six times in his career, including five times this season. He’s led his team in scoring 41 times during his career – 25 times this season.

After he scores or makes a momentum-swinging play, Ingram bends low and points to the ground in a gesture to say, “Let’s go.” He’s not trash-talker, but that’s how he motivates himself and teammates.

“Get the team fired up,” Ingram said. “Any big play to get the team going.”

Teammates say Ingram, despite his wiry frame, is fearless.

“I haven’t seen him back down from a challenge yet,” junior forward Karamo Jawara said.

Ingram will share Friday’s NCAA stage with three other gifted scorers in Iowa State’s Melvin Ejim, Georges Niang and DeAndre Kane. The trio led the Cyclones to a Big 12 tournament championship.

Video footage of Ingram showed Niang exactly what type of threat his team should expect.

“He’s just a real crafty guard,” Niang said. “He can shoot the ball. He’s really good at using his hesitation move to get to the rim, and he just doesn’t take no for an answer.”

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