Five-star wing Brandon Ingram elevates his play during July

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CHICAGO — July in the recruiting world is all about peaking at the right time. While the spring portion of the grassroots basketball season is big for dictating rankings and developing skills, July is the time when scholarships are earned and reputations are cemented.

Entering July, North Carolina native Brandon Ingram was already a top-25 national prospect in the 2015 class, but the 6-foot-8 small forward was still a question mark in the eyes of some coaches and scouts because of his sporadic play.

For Ingram, the upside and ability was there, but the lightbulb was flickering.

With a long and lanky frame and developing ball skills, Ingram would look great one game in the spring and look invisible in other games.

But at the adidas Unrivaled Camp in Chicago this week, Ingram has come out focused and aggressive. The No. 25 prospect, according to Rivals, outplayed the top small forward in the country, Jaylen Brown, in the opening game at camp on Thursday and has had a tremendous week at adidas so far.

“I think I played with a better motor than in early June and May and the spring. My spring was good, but I think I came out with a better motor today,” Ingram told NBCSports.com. “Getting used to my teammates, we’re communicating more and we just had a good game.”

MOREAll our content from the 2014 July Live Recruiting Period

The matchup against Brown, the No. 3 prospect in the class, was added motivation for Ingram. Although the two rarely guarded each other, it was still a chance for Ingram to showcase that he belonged in the conversation with his peers on the wing.

“Everybody wants to be No. 1, everybody wants that top ranking,” Ingram said. “It just gives me a little bit more drive to go at each and everybody. We’re always friends off the court, but when we get on the court, it’s business.”

Ingram even seems different in interviews from how he was this spring. His confidence is up and seems to have found what makes him a consistent impact player on the floor. Ingram maintained that the work he’s put in this spring is really paying off.

“Lot of things I talked about early in May when I was getting interviewed, I went back and I worked on it and I got better at it,” Ingram said.

Getting better for Ingram means two-a-day summer workouts with his Dad and consistently getting in the gym.

“I’m just waking up early in the morning and going to the gym with my Dad and go to work about 6 [a.m.],” Ingram said. “And then when he gets off of work we’re right back in there.”

College coaches are noticing the upside and ability that Ingram has to offer. Clemson, Duke, Florida, Louisville, North Carolina, NC State, VCU, and Wake Forest have offered scholarships while Kansas and Kentucky have made recent contact. During the week at adidas camp, multiple national championship-winning head coaches have watched Ingram play, including Coach K and Roy Williams on the side court at Quest Athletics on Friday afternoon.

“Kentucky has come on-board more,” Ingram said. “Seeing Coach Calipari out here, we actually had a phone call and he talked to me about three days ago. He’s just been doing a lot of research on me and he wanted to come out and see me.”

Ingram also acknowledged that Kansas was, “anxious to get out here and see me,” and even though the in-state North Carolina schools have been heavily involved, Ingram is open in the recruiting process.

“Same schools have been in the mix,” Ingram said. “I know there were rumors around that I was supposed to be narrowing my list at the end of last month, but it’s coming soon.”

Syracuse upsets No. 18 UConn as Tyler Lydon stars again

St Bonaventure Syracuse Basketball
AP Photo/Heather Ainsworth
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Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney combined for 34 points as Syracuse overcame an early 10-point deficit to knock off No. 18 UConn in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis, 79-76.

The talking point at the end of this game is probably going to end up being UConn’s decision not to foul Syracuse with 36 seconds left on the clock. Trevor Cooney dribbled out the clock and, with six seconds left, missed a 35-foot prayer, the offensive rebound getting corralled by Tyler Roberson, sealing the win.

But that’s not the real story here.

That would be Tyler Lydon, who suddenly looks like he may end up being the difference maker for this Syracuse team.

If you don’t know the name, I don’t blame you. Lydon was a low-end top 100 recruit that had been committed to the Orange for a long time. He’s not exactly a game-changing prospect, but he’s a perfect fit for Syracuse. At 6-foot-9, Lydon has the length to be a shot-blocker in the middle of the 2-3 zone — he entered Thursday averaging 3.3 blocks — but his biggest skill is his ability to shoot the ball from beyond the arc. When he plays the middle of that zone, when he is essentially the five for the Orange, they become incredibly difficult to matchup with defensively.

The question is whether or not he can consistently be that guy on the defensive end of the floor. Against UConn, Lydon had 16 points and 12 boards. Against Charlotte, he finished with 18 points, eight boards and six blocks. But neither the Huskies nor the 49ers have a big front line that crashes the offensive glass.

Lydon is great at using his length to make shots in the lane difficult, but at (a generous) 205 pounds, he may run into trouble against bigger, stronger front court players.

The perfect test?

Texas A&M, who the Orange will play in the title game on Friday.

USC holds on to beat No. 20 Wichita State

Andy Enfield
Associated Press
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With guards Fred VanVleet and Landry Shamet both sidelined due to injury, No. 20 Wichita State arrived at the Advocare Invitational shorthanded. But even with that being the case the highly successful Shockers represented quite the opportunity for USC, and Thursday afternoon the Trojans took advantage.

Despite turning the ball over 23 times Andy Enfield’s team found a way to win, hanging on to beat the Shockers by the final score of 72-69. Freshman forward Bennie Boatwright, a tough matchup for most teams as a 6-foot-10 stretch forward who can score from the perimeter, shot 5-for-9 from three and scored a team-high (and career-high) 22 points.

The tandem of he and junior Nikola Jovanovic, who added 14 points and 11 rebounds, outplayed the Wichita State front court on a day in which the Shockers needed greater contributions from those players. Add in 15 points and four assists from Jordan McLaughlin, ten points off the bench from Katin Reinhardt and a 12-for-23 afternoon from three, and the Trojans were able to do enough to make up for their high turnover count and Wichita State’s 24 points off of turnovers.

Given the absence of VanVleet and Shamet there’s no reason to panic regarding Wichita State. Ron Baker, who was exhausted by the end of the game due to the heavy load he was asked to shoulder, scored a game-high 25 points and the play of freshman Markis McDuffie was a positive to build on.

McDuffie, who entered Thursday’s game without a made field goal in his first two appearances as a Shocker, shot 5-for-9 from the field and contributed 14 points and three rebounds off the bench. With their current perimeter rotation being what it is McDuffie will have opportunities to contribute, and the Shockers will need him to take advantage as they await the returns of VanVleet and Shamet (and the addition of Conner Frankamp).

Doing so will not only help Wichita State in the short term but in the long-term as well, thus giving Gregg Marshall another option to call upon on his bench.

Thursday’s outcome, even with the desire to see more from Anton Grady (eight points, seven rebounds), says more about USC at this point in time than Wichita State. Enfield’s first two seasons at the helm were about amassing the talent needed to compete in the Pac-12 while also gaining valuable (and at times painful) experience. In year three the Trojans hope to take a step forward within the conference, and wins like this one provide evidence of the program’s growth.