As a senior at Simeon Career Academy, Chicago native Donte Ingram was unranked at the time of his college recruiting process.
But after receiving offers from three mid-major schools (Loyola, Missouri State and Hampton), he said he was set on staying home, thanks to former Ramblers' guard Milton Doyle, another Chicagoan.
After Doyle originally committed to Kansas and attended summer classes at the school, he transferred to Loyola in August 2012. Ingram cited his desire to play with the Marshall High School product, subsequently committing to the program in November 2013.
His goal was simple: try to leave his mark and legacy in a city that was already a part of him.
"I saw myself fitting right in," he said, noting coach Porter Moser's system emphasized floor-spacing and playing small lineups that creates mismatches to exploit.
Named the Missouri Valley Conference tournament MVP, Ingram exhibited his skill set in the league's championship game on Sunday, scoring 18 points while helping the program claim its first MVCs title since joining the conference in 2013. More important, the 65-49 win over Illinois State gave Loyola its first NCAA tournament berth since 1985.
With 4:17 left of the contest, Ingram drilled his fourth three-pointer to hand the Ramblers a 62-42 lead, smiling into the camera afterward.
On the season, the 6-foot-6, 215-pound wing averaged the second-most points per game (11.6 ppg) among his teammates, along with a 39.9 percent shooting clip from behind the arc.
Assistant coach Bryan Mullins gives credit to Ingram's work ethic in the offseason as he stayed on-campus over the summer to sharpen his skills to play more like a guard.
"Besides just shooting catch-and-shoot threes, now he can shoot threes off the dribble," said Mullins, who was a standout guard at Downers Grove South and at Southern Illinois University. "He can shoot threes off ball screens."
Additionally, the senior and his teammates utilize Moser's "pace and space" philosophy, which derived from Moser's coaching mentor Rick Majerus. They blend that with Loyola assistant coach Drew Valentine's "point-five offense," where a player has a half-second to shoot, cut, pass or drive. Valentine -- the brother of Chicago Bulls' wing Denzel Valentine -- picked up that philosophy as a graduate assistant at Michigan State from 2013-15.
Ingram noted how the Ramblers' frontcourt allows for an abundance of floor-spacing. Consisting of himself, freshman center Cameron Krutwig (10.5 ppg), senior forward Aundre Jackson (10.9 ppg) and even redshirt junior Marques Townes (11.2 ppg) at times, they're all capable of taking defenders off the dribble. As a result, they boast the 13th-highest three-point percentage (40 percent) and the 14th-best two-point percentage (56.5 percent) in college basketball.
"I always want to get better at playing inside-out, outside-in," Ingram said. "I just wanted to be ready for those (big game) moments."
At the other end of the court, his length and shiftiness permits him to switch on ball screens and defend any of the opponents' personnel. Overall, Loyola is tied for the fourth-lowest scoring defense (62.2 ppg) in the country.
Given Ingram's success, he has put the program in position to attract more local talent. Krutwig (Jacobs High), fellow freshmen Lucas Williamson (Whitney Young) and Christian Negron (Larkin High) joined Ingram at Loyola.
While other Chicago-area players are expected to follow, the Ramblers have their own mission to accomplish when the NCAA Tournament begins next week.
And Loyola enters with a 10-game win streak and a 28-5 overall record, just one win shy of the 1963 championship team's school record. Their confidence is high.
"There's so many different situations in a March (Madness) game," Ramblers' guard Ben Richardson said. "Having versatile players, like Donte (Ingram) ... we can matchup with a lot of teams, and that definitely makes us dangerous."