Mentor and Mentee: The Jerry Stackhouse and Brandon Ingram Story

When former NBA All-Star Jerry Stackhouse first met future NBA lottery pick Brandon Ingram, he didn’t know him as Brandon Ingram. He knew him as Donald’s son. Or Bo’s little brother. He knew him as the little kid that would tag along with his dad and older brother to the gym.

The signs of basketball promise would eventually emerge. It was obvious that Ingram would grow into a basketball player’s body. His work ethic was never a question. And then there was the fact that this skinny little kid could flat out shoot the basketball.

I was seeing him every summer coming to the gym. I always had guys in the gym working out when I went back home. And then I started hearing some of the whispers about him being able to shoot the ball really well as a youngster.
Jerry Stackhouse
Former NBA Player

So it began. Jerry Stackhouse, the grizzled veteran with NBA All-Star honors on his resume, and Brandon Ingram, a young kid from the same town who wanted to follow in Stackhouse’s footsteps. Mentor and mentee.

He’s pretty much been one of my kids from a basketball standpoint. From the standpoint of trying to be a mentor, a positive role model to him. He’s taken that and become all of that himself to the kids coming up behind him. I’m proud of that fact just as much as I am proud of him turning into a really talented basketball player.
Jerry Stackhouse
Former NBA Player

There’s no question that getting to work alongside an NBA veteran is something special for a young kid. More importantly, it showed Ingram how to be successful.

“Being able to work with Jerry [Stackhouse] when I was young gave me a mental toughness,” Ingram said. “Seeing him work every single day gave me a certain mentality. It gave me a chance to see how hard I need to work to get to the level he was at, so I just tried to watch him, get some advice.”

They really started to work together when Ingram was in middle school. Stackhouse ran an AAU team that his own son played on. Ingram’s father asked if Brandon could join the team. Stackhouse was convinced it would be a good fit, but Brandon was apprehensive at first.

“It was a no brainer [for me],” Stackhouse said. “He went with us to a tournament up in Richmond. He had never really been away by himself before. He didn’t want to go. He was a little nervous about going. He was a mama’s boy, telling his mom he didn’t want to go. And then Donald, he was like, ‘Oh he’s going.’ It worked out great. He came and had a good time with the guys and, as they say, the rest is history.”

Still, Ingram had a long journey of trying to prove himself. Fast forward to high school, where Ingram was just another freshman trying to make a name for himself.

“I was at a practice his freshmen year and he didn’t get a tone of time that year,” Stackhouse said. “That was one of their state championship seasons and they had a pretty veteran team. But I got a chance to get out there and watch him come up and he would make shots. This little skinny kid wasn’t taking it off the dribble, wasn’t doing a whole lot, just running to his spot and shooting the ball and I’m like, ‘Man this kid is going to be alright,’ because you could tell he was going to continue to grow.”

Ingram would grow both in size and skill, but it wasn’t until the summer before his senior season when his game really exploded. As a member of Stackhouse’s AAU team, Stackhouse Elite, Ingram played against some of the top players in the country. He found that he not only held his own against the nation’s best, but he often dominated. Colleges around the country took notice. As a result of his AAU play, Ingram’s stock shot up and major programs vied for his services.

From the time that we had finished our AAU season from his junior year going into his senior year, man he took a big step and I think it was a lot of the summer stuff that helped.
Jerry Stackhouse
Former NBA Player

The progression didn’t stop there. During the winter of Ingram’s senior season, Stackhouse was in town and the two met up at the gym. Despite his slender frame, he played strong and he played with confidence. The skinny kid wasn’t allowing anyone to push him around anymore, not even an 18-year NBA veteran.

“I remember one time when we were playing in my mom’s backyard and I just grabbed him. I was holding him. And he was sitting there letting me hold him. I was like, ‘Man, get my hands off of you. You can’t let nobody hold you. I don’t care if you swipe down, swipe up, get an offensive foul, you got to let whoever know that they can’t play you by thinking they can rough you up.’ And he did it. Next time I grabbed him, he did it. You hear about the proverbial light bulb flashing on and I think that was it.”

The light bulb stayed on. Now as highly touted as any recruit in the country, Ingram took his talents to Duke, where he averaged 17 points and nearly seven rebounds per game in his lone season before making the jump to the NBA. He was taken with the second overall pick by Los Angeles.

The transition from college basketball to professional basketball is a tough one. Like most rookies, Ingram has had his fair share of struggles, but he’s also shined at times, showcasing what makes him such a special player. And his work ethic is stronger than ever.

He’ll do the work. I try to not be overbearing with him. I allow him to make mistakes and learn on his own. You can tell a kid that stove is hot, but until they actually touch it they don’t know it’s hot. That’s kind of how I approach it. He’s going to have to learn things on his own.
Jerry Stackhouse
Former NBA Player

Stackhouse still provides advice from time to time, and Ingram is more than happy to soak up any information he can.

“Every single day I go in listening and looking to improve,” Ingram said. “I haven’t been in this league long, so I just try to be coachable and take any piece of advice I can get from any coach or any veteran on the floor. I try to take any advice and put it into my game so I can lead by example.”

This summer the two will get back together. Stackhouse is busy coaching Toronto’s D-League affiliate, while Ingram is busy learning all he can in his rookie season. But once it comes to an end, the two will meet up, get in the gym, and the mentor will continue to teach the mentee. They’ll probably even play the occasional pick-up game, like they have for years.

Ingram’s game has grown exponentially over the past few years, largely due to Stackhouse’s help, but Stackhouse, now 42-years-old, says he can still school his 19-year-old protégé on the court.

“Man, I still bust Brandon [on the court],” Stackhouse said with a laugh. “He’ll tell you the same thing, though. That’s just where we are from. He’s never going to concede that and I’m never going to concede that. Ever. If it came down to it, I could just bully him. I’d run through him and get the buckets I need. If I tried to match him skill-to-skill, I probably wouldn’t have a chance if I just let him play on the perimeter, but he isn’t beating me. Know that.”

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