Andre Ingram Got a Cup of Coffee and Turned it Into a Shooting Show


“They know me very well, they’ve seen me the last couple years, so they know what I do and they know how I play,” he said of the Lakers in a telephone interview shortly before the game. “That’s the goal: Be who I am.”

Ingram’s call-up comes at the tail end of a fifth consecutive playoff-less season for the Lakers, a team of promising young stars that is patching a roster together after a slew of injuries. But that hardly takes away from the fact that, after 384 games in the N.B.A.’s minor league and a brief stint in Australia, Ingram ascended to basketball’s highest level.

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Ingram set a career record for 3-pointers in the N.B.A.’s development league before finally getting the call to join the Lakers.

Credit
Joe Murphy/NBAE, via Getty Images

When the news came out that Ingram had been called up, Jeff Jones, who coached Ingram at American and is now the head coach at Old Dominion, immediately began receiving texts from a large network of former players and coaches, each of whom had come into contact with Ingram over the years. Jones said the group, which includes the N.B.A. veteran Cory Alexander, was in disbelief that Ingram’s day had finally come.

“It couldn’t happen to or for a better person,” Jones said in a telephone interview. “I don’t think I could adequately describe what a quality human being Andre Ingram is, and has been, going back to when we were recruiting him when he was a high school kid in Richmond, Virginia.”

Kieran Donohue, who was an assistant at American before joining Jones at Old Dominion, raved about Ingram on and off the court, and summed up the group’s feelings in three words: “Everybody loves Andre.”

For two games, or a “cup of coffee” in the old parlance of minor league baseball, the Lakers will be treated to an aging gunner who owns a remarkable career mark of 46.1 percent from 3-point range (Stephen Curry’s career mark is 43.6 percent). Ingram, who developed into a shooter at the pro level after having been a more traditional scorer in college, can be streaky, but he has a tendency to catch fire from outside, as evidenced by his win over Fredette in that 3-point contest in 2016 — which included a stretch of hitting 13 consecutive 3-pointers.

2016 NBA Development League Three-Point Contest Video by nbagleague

Ingram’s other statistics have been fairly modest, but he said he should not be labeled just a shooter, which he proved with plenty of hustle even in defeat on Tuesday. But people wanted a shooting show, and Ingram obliged, fulfilling his pregame prediction: “If we get some daylight, we’re going to let it go.”

Ingram is not the oldest rookie in N.B.A. history — that distinction most likely belongs to Pablo Prigioni of Argentina, who played his first N.B.A. game at 35 years 169 days — but he is an anomaly even among his minor league peers, who tend to bounce from league to league, because he has stayed remarkably loyal to the N.B.A.-run development league. His only professional experience beyond that league came in a two-game stint with the Perth Wildcats of Australia’s National Basketball League in 2016.

Jones said that he was one of numerous voices in Ingram’s life over the years encouraging the player to seek more money by playing overseas rather than in the development league. But Ingram’s persistence was something to be reckoned with, and he believed staying as close to the actual N.B.A. as possible was his best way of eventually playing in the league.

“He’s one of the most determined individuals that I’ve ever met,” Jones said. “This is the path he wanted to take, and he’s made it work for him.”

Now that he has finally realized his dream, Ingram is trying to enjoy the moment. The bigger thoughts on what this means for his career can come later.

“I’m most looking forward to just getting up and down a couple times,” he said before the game. “After that, it’s basketball. Everything else is what you’ve been doing your whole life.”

But he did add that any thought of this being some sort of a career-capper for him was unfounded.

“In no way do I look at this as the end of something,” he said. “Quite the opposite.”

If Tuesday was any indication, he has plenty left in the tank.

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