Brandon Ingram sat dejected in Duke’s locker room after the Blue Devils’ season ended with a Sweet 16 loss to Oregon. Everyone knew at that point that the talented freshman had played his last game at Duke – coach Mike Krzyzewski had confirmed that during a news conference in the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament in Providence.
On Monday, Ingram officially announced in an essay on The Players’ Tribune website that he was entering the NBA Draft.
But in the immediate aftermath of the end of Duke’s season, Ingram reflected on his year as a Blue Devil.
“I love all these guys, and it was an honor to play with these guys,” he said. “The competitive spirit that Grayson (Allen), Matt (Jones) and Marshall (Plumlee) bring every day, the guys that you don’t see on the floor every day just clapping for you and being there at practice challenging you every day – I just love everything about Duke. It was an amazing feeling playing with these guys.”
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A second-team All-ACC selection and the ACC Freshman of the Year, Ingram averaged 17.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 34.6 minutes per game this season. He shot 44.2 percent from the floor and 41.0 percent from 3-point range. His scoring average was the third-highest among major-conference freshmen this season, trailing only Kentucky’s Jamal Murray (20.1) and LSU’s Ben Simmons (19.2).
He received honorable mention honors on the AP All-America team and was named a freshman All-American by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.
Ingram will be either the first or second pick in the draft thanks to his combination of size (6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan) and upside – once he fills out his frame, it’s hard to imagine how defenders will stop him when he’s facing the basket.
It’s hard to remember that Ingram started the year slow. It wasn’t until Duke’s eighth game of the year, against Indiana, that he had his breakout moment, with 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting.
“He knew that he was the best player on the floor after the Indiana game, and he proved it. He was a competitor,” Jones said of Ingram. “Once he adjusted to the pace of the game, he kind of told other people to adjust to his pace.”
Playing under Coach K, being with my teammates, they pushed me every single day, and I saw myself get better. They saw me get better, and they developed confidence in me.
Ingram used one of his go-to phrases when asked if he thought he improved over the course of the year: “Most definitely” (“Of course” is another).
“I came here to win and get better,” Ingram said. “Playing under Coach K, being with my teammates, they pushed me every single day, and I saw myself get better. They saw me get better, and they developed confidence in me. And they helped me to develop confidence in myself.”
Ingram is the ninth Duke freshman to declare for the NBA Draft, joining Corey Maggette (1999), Luol Deng (2004), Kyrie Irving (2011), Austin Rivers (2012), Jabari Parker (2014), Tyus Jones (2015), Jahlil Okafor (2015) and Justise Winslow (2015). Each of the previous eight was a first-round draft pick, including seven lottery picks.
“Brandon is a hell of a competitor,” said Jones, a junior who has played with half of Duke’s one-and-dones. “He’s definitely up there in my book. Obviously, I wish we advanced more for him, just because I know how much he loved playing for Duke and just loved being around the guys. But he’s definitely up there in my book.”