When the NBA first instituted their development league in 2001, it began with only eight teams located mostly in the South. There were two teams in North Carolina (Asheville Altitude and Fayetteville Patriots), two in South Carolina (Charleston Lowgators and Greenville Groove), two in Alabama (Mobile Revelers and Huntsville Flight), one in Georgia (Columbus Riverdragons) and one in Virginia (Roanoke Dazzle).
Although the league was called the National Basketball Development League, or NBDL, it really didn’t have much affiliation with the NBA itself. That wasn’t until 2005, when then-Commissioner David Stern announced plans for expansion and for each team to be affiliated with an NBA team as a minor league system.
Now rebranded this year as the G-League due to the NBA’s partnership with Gatorade, the league has expanded to 26 teams with the majority of NBA teams having their own sole affiliate. For Andre Ingram, who has played pretty much his entire professional basketball career in the G-League since 2007, much has changed.
“When I first came into the league, everything was run through the paint. It was, ‘Get the ball to the paint no matter what,’ and you create everything off of that,” Ingram told Basketball Insiders. “Today it’s more so the guards are moving it and swinging it. Teams are running less plays and they’re more read and react.”
Ingram’s basketball career began at Highland Springs High School in Virginia where he led the team to a title in 2003, the first in school history. As a senior, he averaged 22.8 points per game and shot 49 percent from three-point range. He would then go on to American University where he was the Patriot League Rookie of the Year, a two-time First Team All-Patriot League member, and a Second Team All-Patriot League member.
He went undrafted in the NBA draft, but he was taken in the seventh round of the D-League draft in 2007 by the now-defunct Utah Flash. During his four years with the Flash, Ingram developed into a deadly perimeter shooter, and he became the Flash’s all-time leading scorer. He was invited to participate in the D-League All-Star events in 2010 where he won the three-point competition.
For a perimeter marksman such as himself, he’s seen how the change in offensive systems over the years have helped benefit him. Just two years ago, he became the G-League’s all-time leader in three-point shots made. Even then, he still pays homage to the days past of offenses focusing on pounding the paint.
“It’s just the type of offense that’s kind of taken over the NBA and the D-League as well. That’s kind of the change I see, a bit more perimeter oriented, but it’s still about getting to the lane,” Ingram told Basketball Insiders. “All the shots I have, they come from us getting into the lane. That’s why I’m open. It’s changed a lot, it’s more perimeter in and then out instead of just straight to the post.”
In a career that’s spanned ten years now, Ingram has played his entire career in the G-League save for a brief two-game stint with the Perth Wildcats in Australia in 2016. When the Flash folded in 2011, Ingram was left briefly without a team. He was scooped up by the then Los Angeles D-Fenders (now South Bay Lakers). While with the Lakers G-League affiliate, Ingram won his second three-point contest.
During his time in the NBA’s minor league, Ingram’s seen many teammates come and go. Some have gone on to the NBA, some overseas, and some still in the G-League. Over the years, he’s seen the level of competition go up. He definitely sees the G-League as a place for players to cut their teeth. For those who might be on the cusp of the NBA, but not quite there yet, he believes it’s a good place to get their feet wet.
“Obviously that’s the goal of anyone who plays in this league. We have guys who are capable, we see it all the time. We practice and we’re around each other every day,” Ingram told Basketball Insiders. “We see the talent, and so it’s understandable why guys are playing in this league and what they’re striving for. I would encourage it. I’ve had an excellent time in the league, I still am. I just want to keep going.”
At age 32, Ingram understands that his time in professional basketball will be coming to end one day, maybe sooner rather than later. But he’ll deal with that day whenever it should come. And until that day arrives, he’ll continue to keep playing and have fun in the only league he’s ever known.
“I want to keep going, I don’t feel like the end is anywhere in sight. That’s just kind of how my mind works. I just want to go until the wheels fall off as they say,” Ingram told Basketball Insiders. “For me, it’s hard not to think about the end, but I’m trying not to think about the end. For me, it’s on to the next game and then the next game. It’s just one day at a time and as long as you’ve got the energy for it, I say do it.”
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