Brandon Ingram’s modest image and soft spoken demeanor didn’t change when he came to L.A., which is why even after almost a full rookie season with the Los Angeles Lakers, he’s still asked to speak up in interviews.
Interesting enough, public speaking was actually one of Ingram’s favorite classes in college, although he’ll be the first to admit, it was also the most nerve-wracking.
In his farewell letter to Duke, he remembers a time where he completely froze up when Ingrid, his teacher, called on him to speak in the front of the class, legs shaking and his heart feeling like it was going to pop out of his chest.
“I can feel people’s eyes on me,” Ingram wrote in his letter on Players Tribune. “The only thing I can compare it to is when you’re fouled with no time on the clock and you’re down by two. You have no choice. You have to step up to the line and sink both.”
Coincidentally, Ingram has had just as much trouble sinking those free throws (he’s 61.7% from the FT line this year), as he has with taking on that vocal leadership role, something he actually said was looking forward to bringing to the Lakers, after learning the importance of leading vocally through Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski).
But, realistically Ingram is still just 19-years-old and what he lacks in voice, he makes up for in work ethic, which leads head coach Luke Walton to believe he has the capability to grow into that type of leader.
“[It’s] his work ethic that allows me to believe he can be that guy, I don’t know how vocal he’s ever going to get, but we’re going to keep pushing him to, keep seeing what we can get out of him from that side of the leadership role.”
It’s for that reason Walton decided to bench Ingram (despite his solid individual performance) when the starting group failed to perform as a unit against the Clippers this week.
“I told him at halftime, it sucks for you that you have to sit out too, because you are actually out there playing your tail off, but when we’re going to continue to preach what we do as a team and you’re part of that first unit out there, that’s part of your responsibility to make sure everyone is ready to play.”
Walton expanded on not only his reasoning behind benching Ingram, but also the types of things he’s looking for from a leadership perspective.
“It (the benching) was more of a way to get Brandon to be more vocal, which he has slowly been getting, embrace more of a leadership role, as a way to kind of say look even if you are playing good yourself, we need more out of you, we need you grabbing somebody by the jersey, lifting your teammates up, whatever it is, if we’re not getting our same effort from other people.”
“He looked mad, but he should have been mad,” Walton said about how Ingram responded to the benching. “I think he understood it.”
Walton made it sound like Ingram responded with a fire at practice, noting that during their missed free-throw drill to close practice, he was the first one back in every sprint.
Unfortunately, Brandon Ingram only participated in some of Thursday’s practice, dealing with right knee tendinitis. His play in the month of March has been the best we’ve seen of Ingram this season, averaging 13.7 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists and increasing his field goal percentage to 51.8%, making his way into the conversation for rookie of the month honors.
“I haven’t seen what other rookies have done this month, but I think Brandon has had a phenomenal month for us,” Walton said. “I think he’s stepped up his game in every aspect. It’s good to set goals for yourself, I know in talking with Brandon he has high goals for himself, it would be nice for him to win one of these before the season ends.”