Denzel Ingram, a former basketball standout at Chapel Hill High, has had a nomadic college hoop career. But the 6-foot point guard has at least been able to stay in his home state while playing for two Division I programs in North Carolina.
After two seasons at Charlotte, the Chapel Hill resident decided to transfer to UNC at Wilmington. He had to sit out the 2014-15 campaign, but this season the junior transfer is among the team leaders in minutes and points per game for the Seahawks.
“I just thought this was the best fit for me,” Ingram said of UNCW, which plays in the Colonial Athletic Association. “It really came down to Tennessee Tech and Wilmington. I know my parents are pleased.”
His parents, Eddie and Carol Ingram, are able to be on hand for most home games and can catch UNCW on the road sometimes as well.
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At Chapel Hill High School, he was one of the top scorers in school history as he averaged 23.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, 7.6 assists and 3.2 steals as a senior as his team went 26-2. Ingram had 1,570 career points at Chapel Hill High and, with Tod Morgan as head coach, the school was 63-15 and won three conference championships in Ingram’s last three seasons there.
Ingram was named an all-state player by the Associated Press and the 3A player of the year by the N.C. Basketball Coaches Association. He played in several all-star games after his senior season.
The current UNC Wilmington roster also includes sophomore forward Marcus Bryan, a Raleigh Ravenscroft grad who was a childhood friend and former teammate with Ingram at Charlotte.
Ingram said the chance to play more of an up-tempo style under head coach Kevin Keatts at UNCW was the main reason for the transfer from Charlotte.
“Style of play – and I needed a change of scenery,” he said. “I wanted to get back to playing the way I knew.”
After an adjustment period Ingram is now a key player for the Seahawks, who were 11-5 (6-1 CAA) after winning six of their last eight.
“I had a slow start (this season). I was still adjusting to the speed of the game” after sitting out last season, as per NCAA rules, he noted. “People were expecting a lot out of me. What coach asks me to do I will go out there and do. I am satisfied here, I am contented here. Everyone is buying in.”
Ingram came off the bench in nine of the Seahawks’ first 15 games. Now he leads the team in minutes played (29.2 per game).
“I stay alert and read people. I look for matchups we can exploit,” Ingram said of watching the opponents.
After coming off the bench in the previous seven games, Ingram made his first start since Dec. 12 at Georgetown when he got the nod at Towson on Jan. 7. “Game time they told me (about the start). It really didn’t change my approach,” Ingram said.
“I just thought he practiced a little better,” Keatts said of starting Ingram at Towson. “I am going with guys who I think are practicing better. I thought he responded.”
He ran the point guard spot most of the first half and then hit a shot from about 30 feet out just before the halftime buzzer to pull UNCW within 36-25 at the break. Ingram had eight points in the first half and finished with a college-career-high 18 points. But the Seahawks were outrebounded 43-25 and lost to Towson 76-60.
“We have to go back to the drawing board,” Ingram said after the Towson game. “They are just relentless; they hit the glass hard. That is what they preach.”
The readjusted attitude paid off. UNCW won its next two games as Ingram produced 12 assists, four steals and just two turnovers.
In a 91-82 win Thursday at Elon, Ingram started for the sixth time this year and scored 14 points.
Ingram went into this weekend as second on the team in assists (3.3 per game) and steals (1.6 per game), and he was third in scoring (10.5 ppg).
Ingram had 416 points and 103 assists in two seasons at Charlotte, and started 38 of 61 games.
He has one more season of eligibility after this year.