Brandon Ingram, the 6-foot-9 Kinston High School standout who was the top uncommitted prospect in the class of 2015, ended a years-long recruiting competition on Monday by announcing he will play at Duke next season.
Ingram’s announcement, which came in front of a few hundred people in the Kinston gym – wasn’t necessarily a surprise. The Blue Devils in recent weeks and months had appeared to emerge as the leader to land Ingram, although Ingram and his father, Donald, had said as late as Friday that Ingram was still undecided.
Ingram grew up a Duke fan. Watching the Blue Devils win the NCAA championship – and then lose four starters to graduation and the NBA Draft – certainly helped Duke’s case.
“We are looking to go into a system where he can make an immediate impact,” Donald Ingram said. “They have four guys that are leaving this year, Quinn Cook and the three freshmen. With Brandon’s skill set and upside and his ranking, we feel like he should be able to go in and make an impact without being on the bench to start with.
“Nothing was promised,” Donald Ingram added. “What they wanted to do was make sure that he came in and worked hard and earned the right to be on that court. And with four players gone – four starters – it’s cut and dry. It’s a no-brainer, so to speak.”
Ingram, who parlayed a strong spring into the No. 3 overall spot in ESPN’s recruiting rankings, chose Duke over North Carolina, which had hosted Ingram on many unofficial visits during the past two years. Ingram and his father said that the uncertainly surrounding UNC with the ongoing NCAA investigations did play a significant role in his decision-making process.
N.C. State in the mix
Kansas, Kentucky and N.C. State also recruited Ingram heavily and had visited him in recent days. Duke did, too – twice, in fact, during the past 10 days, including a 6:45 a.m. visit before school one morning. Donald Ingram called assistant coach Jeff Capel “Duke’s main recruiter,” and both father and son said they heard from Capel and head coach Mike Krzyzewski most often.
“They’ve always been on me hard,” Brandon Ingram said of the Blue Devils’ staff. “They actually even took me through some of the plays that they would use me in.”
Long and lanky, Ingram is heralded for his versatility – he and his father liked how Krzyzewski allows forwards like Jabari Parker and Justise Winslow to dribble the ball up the floor in transition – and has the ability to make 3s and finish at the rim. His court vision is advanced, too, as Ingram uses his length and height to find open teammates with crisp passes.
By waiting until now to make his decision, Ingram and his family had the ability to make the most informed choice possible. Players who were leaving for the draft had made their intentions known, and the NCAA investigation could have provided more clarity on any potential sanctions facing the Tar Heels (but it didn’t). Historically, UNC has done well with Kinston players – both Jerry Stackhouse and Reggie Bullock, who was in attendance Monday, played at Kinston before rising to stardom in Chapel Hill – and Ingram was asked about how hard his decision was, given the number of Tar Heel and Wolfpack fans in his hometown.
“Today, I created my own path,” Ingram said.
Ingram this season led Kinston to its fourth consecutive state championship. He was a member of the varsity team all four years. His recruitment was among the fiercest in recent history in North Carolina, given that Duke, UNC and N.C. State all made Ingram a priority.
In Ingram, Kinston High coach Perry Tyndall said Duke is getting “the most versatile player in the nation.”
“And they’re getting a kid that is willing to do anything to win,” Tyndall said. “And I think a lot of kids are willing to do that, but he’s capable of doing so many things. When you’re 6-9 and (you have a) 7-foot-3 wingspan and you can shoot and you can dribble and you can rebound.
“They’re getting a kid that’s going to affect the game in so many ways.”
Ingram’s commitment gives Duke the No. 1 recruiting class, according to ESPN.com, for the second straight year. The 2014 class – Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow, Jahlil Okafor and Grayson Allen – led Duke to a national championship. This year, Ingram joins fellow five-stars Derryck Thornton (point guard) and Chase Jeter (forward), as well as McDonald’s All-American Luke Kennard (shooting guard) and three-star big man Antonio Vrankovic.