With NC&AT in town, NCCU hopes Jerm is 'catching'

Jan. 21, 2014 @ 08:32 PM

Shooters shoot. That’s what they do. Even when their shots aren’t falling.

That’s N.C. Central’s Jeremy “Jerm” Ingram, a bona fide scorer who earlier in the season was the No. 3 point producer in Division I basketball.

Then he began to fade.

Ingram’s 28.4 points per game average has dipped to 19.3. Now he’s the No. 39 scorer in the nation, which still is rather good.

What’s better, though, is that Ingram appears to be emerging from a shooting slump at an ideal time with archival N.C. A&T visiting McDougald-McLendon Gymnasium tonight (7:30 p.m., NCCUEaglePride.com) looking to ride back to Greensboro with a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference win.

A&T (6-12, 2-1 MEAC) beat Delaware State 66-55 on Monday. NCCU (11-5, 2-1 MEAC) beat Delaware State 62-52 on Saturday.

Ingram, who scored 20 points in the win over Delaware State, led NCCU in scoring for the first time since contributing 11 points in a Dec. 31 loss at Maryland.

The Eagles won 3 of 4 games in between that time while NCCU coach LeVelle Moton watched other players carry the scoring burden.

NCCU forward Jay Copeland is averaging nine points per game, although he’s been scoring in double figures during Ingram’s slump. Copeland was having problems finishing shots from close range until Moton showed him on video that he was taking his eyes off the basket right before he released the ball.

Ingram said nothing in particular has been bothering him; his shots just weren’t falling. His teammates said they never lost confidence in him and added that they were the ones who needed to change by taking some of the scoring pressure off the senior guard from Charlotte.

NCCU has some new players who needed time to adjust to what the Eagles do on offense, Moton said. Couple that with an injury to veteran guard Ebuka Anyaorah and Ingram sort of felt like he had to carry the team, Moton explained.

Ingram certainly flexed strong shoulders, putting up big numbers against reputable programs. He scored 27 in a loss at Cincinnati; 29 in a win at Campbell; 29 in a win at N.C. State; 36 in a win over Appalachian State; and 37 in a loss at Wichita State.

Those kind of numbers can attract a few extra Twitter followers, Moton said.

“People start anointing you and telling you things to make you feel good, and it’s only right that you kind of believe it,” Moton said.

Ingram’s scoring skid, besides getting other Eagles more involved offensively, made him focus more on the defensive end, Moton said. Ingram had gotten too caught up in scoring, the coach said.

New Jersey Institute of Technology came to Durham on Jan. 16 with one of the best 3-point shooters in the country, freshman Damon Lynn, but Ingram’s defense held Lynn in check in an NCCU win, Moton said.

Ingram against NJIT hit his first two baskets with a scout from the NBA’s Utah Jazz in the gym checking him out. But Ingram cooled off, finishing the game with 10 points, making 5 of 13 shots from the field.

The most striking thing about Ingram’s stat line that night was that he never made it to the free-throw line. It was the second game in a row without a foul shot for Ingram. He took just two shots from the field during the prior game against Bethune-Cookman, scoring three points in the win but never getting to the charity stripe.

At the start of the season, Ingram was making a living at the free-throw line, but game officials have since stopped calling as many fouls, Moton said.

New NCAA rules against hand checking are aimed at fostering a more fluid style of play.

NJIT coach Jim Engles said he wasn’t taking any chances with Ingram that night in McDougald-McLendon, scoring drought or not.

“We based our scouting report around him,” Engles said. “You don’t want to have him break out against you. But that’s why they’re really good, because they have other guys who can pick up the slack.”

One of those guys is NCCU pass-first point guard Emanuel Chapman. Other Eagles must score as long as other teams regard the No. 14 on Ingram’s jersey as a bull’s-eye, Chapman said.

“They’re locked in on Jerm,” Chapman said. “I would lock on him, as well, if I was the opposing team. When they’re locked in on a guy so hard, then it gives other guys opportunities to score the ball.”

Ingram is more than a scorer — the guy is a good passer who hits the boards hard and can lock up his man on defense, NCCU forward Karamo Jawara said.

“He’s one of our best defensive players,” Jawara said.

And Ingram unquestionably is NCCU’s best offensive threat, the slump being what it is — or, perhaps, was.

“If Jerm puts his mind on scoring the basketball, he can score the basketball,” Chapman said. “I’m confident in him scoring on any defense. But that’s not his mentality, and that’s not what we need from him.”