Donte Ingram and Loyola took a wild ride in the NCAA Tournament. Now he's on one of his own.
Ingram has been traveling from city to city working out for NBA teams - an opportunity that in part presented itself after scouts saw more of Ingram during the Ramblers' thrilling Final Four run.
"It's been a long journey," Ingram told the Tribune in a phone interview Friday night. "Going through the tournament and having the success we had, that's been a huge help. Being in March Madness, the biggest stage in basketball, getting on that stage alone, more people see you. For us to show what we can do and showcase our talents as a team and individually and to get this opportunity, it's a dream."
While Ingram isn't listed on mock drafts, he is hoping to earn a roster spot on a summer-league team and work his way onto an NBA team.
Ingram, who played high school ball at Simeon in Chicago, had his first official workout with the Bulls. He has also worked out twice for the Bucks and was with the Grizzlies on Monday, the Sixers on Tuesday and the Timberwolves on Thursday.
He said he might receive a private workout with the Knicks, who saw him work out in a group, before Thursday's draft. Like most players, the possibility of playing for his hometown team excites Ingram.
"Obviously that would be a dream come true," he said. "The opportunity itself is fun, but to be able to stay in my hometown and be around family and close to Loyola, that would be a great story."
Ingram, who is listed as 6-foot-6, already created quite a story for himself.
He became a tournament favorite after hitting a deep 3-pointer at the Buzzer to help No. 11 seed Loyola upset No. 6 seed Miami 64-62 in the first round. The wild celebration and ensuing upsets of Tennessee, Kansas State and Nevada captured national attention.
Even fellow Chicago native Chance the Rapper started following Ingram on Twitter and tweeted a shoutout.
Ingram, the Missouri Valley Conference tournament MVP, was known for his confident shooting on a team that earned a reputation for sharing the ball. He shot 44.3 percent last season while making 39.2 percent of his 3-pointers and averaged 11 points and 6.4 rebounds.
NBA teams have liked a lot about his game, Ingram said.
"They like my size, my versatility, my shot and defense," he said. "Now I'm on teams' radars and have an opportunity to be in summer league. ... I'm just trying to show my versatility and how well I shoot and can guard different positions. You look at the NBA now and how the game is going small-ball, you want versatile guys who can switch on shooting guards and point guards."
A roster spot isn't guaranteed, Ingram understands. He will have to work and prove himself. But he said that's how he approached his Loyola career and he defied expectations.
So why not do it again?
"I don't look at it as pressure," Ingram said. "This process is fun. During the tournament, people kept asking the same thing. But no, it's fun. I'm enjoying the moment. This is something you dream of, this opportunity, playing the sport I love to play."
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