Every Cinderella March Madness run needs a team parent who provides television cameras with animated reactions perfect for prime-time. With No. 11 seed Loyola now marching to the Elite Eight in one of the most remarkable Cinderella runs in recent memory, Don Ingram, father of Ramblers’ senior forward Donte Ingram, has stepped into that parental role.
Don, 55, an electrician for CSX Railroads stationed in Chicago, has been able to attend every Loyola home game of his son’s four-year career. He can always be seen walking around the arena with a big smile, projecting infectious good vibes. Since the start of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, he has taken on more leadership in his fandom. Wearing a black, long-sleeve Loyola shirt that reads on the front, “Loyola Dad”, he leads cheers in games and at pep rallies.
One of his most recognizable chants isn’t conventional, but it works.
“Loyola, Loyola, Loyola, aye, aye, aye!” Ingram yells in unison with the crowd.
During the team’s Sweet 16 pep rally in Atlanta, Ingram led fans in a short rendition of Naughty by Nature’s “Hip Hop Hooray.”
A loud personality by default, he’s quick to point out this is no act. It’s just who he is.
“He’s like that at every game he goes to, it’s not just Loyola basketball,” Don’s wife, Doretha Ingram, 52, added.
His non-stop energy at games is often too much for Doretha to keep up with.
“I join in for a while, but then I get tired because he wears me out,” Doretha said.
Donte’s younger brother, Dylan, 15, a freshman JV basketball player at Simeon Career Academy, is all too familiar with his dad’s in-game antics.
“I’m more of a laid back person. [My dad] being all over the place, I just sit back and watch him,” Dylan said.
Part of Don’s demeanor is an unwavering confidence. Most parents are nervous when their child is playing on such a big stage. That is not Don’s style. When Loyola was trailing Miami 62-61 in the first round with under ten seconds left, he wanted the ball in his son’s hands.
“Big stage? We are the stage. It’s a mindset,” Don said. “When it got down to nine seconds left, I was just praying that my son had a chance to take that shot.”
When Donte found the ball in his hands and connected on a deep three-pointer with 0.3 seconds to keep Loyola’s tournament dreams alive, it was no surprise to the forward’s father.
“When he touched it, I said, ‘it’s going in, it’s going in,’” Don said. “Because he was made for that moment, he’s made for that moment. He was ready.”
Don knows his son Donte was ready because he embodies the same confidence. He has instilled this mindset into his family’s foundation through preaching discipline. Don has made Donte write out his goals on his bedroom door since childhood, checking off each goal as it’s completed.
“It’s tougher to get knocked off the block when you know where you’re going in life. With that being said, Donte is focused,” Don said.
Another big part of Don’s philosophy is love. He has taught his sons to be appreciative of everything they get and enjoy life.
“I love my family, so when you get a bunch of people who feel the same way as I do under the same roof, that’s love,” Don said. “That’s straight love.”
This emotion is evident in Donte’s play. After knocking down big threes, Donte often bounds down the court with a smile in a half-gallop, yelling to the crowd. He said his father’s passion has rubbed off on him.
“He’s instilled confidence and respect [in me] and he passes just great vibes off to others and obviously me being around him my whole life, I’m kind of the same way,” Donte said.
After Donte hit the game winner against Miami, both he and his father gave passionate reactions.
These are the types of moments, as a father, Don lives for. To see his son and his teammates complete the goals they’ve worked so hard for.
“That’s where my excitement comes from, watching the boys achieve things and go after their dreams,” Don said.
The next goal on Loyola’s list is a win over No. 9 seed Kansas State Saturday and a trip to the Final Four. With his emphatic crowd support, Don is helping the team get there.
The Elite Eight matchup tips off at 5:07 Central Time Saturday on TBS. Look for Don in the Loyola crowd on television. He won’t be hard to spot.