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It takes only a brief glance at Duke forward Brandon Ingram to understand the biggest critique of the 18-year-old.
The 6-foot-10, 196-pound draft prospect is the definition of gangly – long and thin, with lanky legs and arms that sway as he moves.
Though Ingram looks locked into the No. 2 pick, which belongs to the Los Angeles Lakers, he is still trying to fight the idea that his size and weight are a problem as he prepares for the pros.
“It’s not more about gaining weight, it’s about getting stronger,” Ingram told Business Insider during a promotional event for Speedstick one week before the draft. “I think weight is not the problem right now.”
Yet to the NBA world, Ingram’s thin frame is a potential problem. DraftExpress’ Jonathan Givony said of Ingram in a scouting report in March:
“The same can be said about Ingram reaching his athletic upside, which is very much a work in progress as it often is with players who hit late growth spurts. Ingram is extremely fluid for a player his size, possessing long strides and nice quickness getting off the floor, but does not show elite explosiveness at this point in time, struggling to turn the corner or finish above the rim through contact. Gaining strength in his lower body and core will be extremely important in unlocking his abilities as a creator, finisher and defender, as he’s still in the gangly physical phase prospects in his mold often have to get past to reach their full potential.”
An NBA scout told ESPN, “The biggest concern for me is his body. If he doesn’t gain weight, it’s hard to envision him being effective in the NBA.”
Ingram understands the concerns, but isn’t worried about himself. “I’m still 18 years old. When I grow and I keep growing up, the weight will come naturally.”
However, Ingram is on a strict regimen to gain weight and strength heading into his rookie year. He told For The Win’s Charles Curtis that he’s eating six meals a day in an attempt to gain 20 pounds.
“I’m just trying to eat healthy… a lot of protein and a lot of grains and just stay in the weight room,” Ingram told BI.
“It’s not fun at all, man. Eating is fun, but at times, it can get sickening,” Ingram continued before reinforcing his point. “But I’m just not really worried about that right now. Just get stronger. I think just getting stronger, it’s not more about the weight, the weight is gonna come naturally. And if I put on a bad weight, it’s gonna slow me down a little bit, so just trying to get stronger, as strong as I can be.”
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Ingram may be able to take comfort in the player he’s most often compared to: Kevin Durant. Durant entered the draft at 6-foot-10, 215 pounds, which is still a full 20 pounds heavier than Ingram. Durant was chided at the combine when he was unable to bench press one rep of 185 pounds, as scouts wondered how he’d fair against much stronger players. It obviously had no impact on his success in the NBA, as he won Rookie of the Year in 2008. Does being in the same shoes as Durant, a player Ingram said he admires, motivate him?
“I don’t know if that motivates me,” Ingram said.
He then paused.
“It does motivate me a little bit. But of course I think I’m stronger than most people think I am, anyway, so I just use my naysayers as motivation to keep me going, be the best basketball player I can be.”
After watching a 6-foot-8, 260-pound monster in LeBron James bully the Warriors for seven games en route to a championship, it’s hard to imagine Ingram or his frame lasting with the NBA’s elite. It’s going to be an uphill battle for Ingram, though he’s fortunate that it doesn’t seem to be affecting his draft status. He’ll have his work cut out for him as soon as he finishes shaking Adam Silver’s hand this Thursday.