Simeon's Donte Ingram is adjusting to being back on the court after being ruled ineligible by the IHSA in January because of residency issues. He was cleared to play by the IHSA in early February.

Simeon's Donte Ingram is adjusting to being back on the court after being ruled ineligible by the IHSA in January because of residency issues. He was cleared to play by the IHSA in early February. (Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune / March 5, 2013)

Note to readers: Simeon's Class 4A sectional semifinal game against DuSable has been postponed until 7:30 p.m. Wednesday because of snow.

Simeon coach Robert Smith pulled junior guard Donte Ingram into his office for a chat a couple of weeks ago.

"I told him to play and put all that stuff behind him and look forward," Smith said. "You could see he was a little down. In practice he wasn't playing as well as should have. I told him to relax and play the game."

The 6-foot-5 Ingram has had as rocky a season as anybody at Simeon.

After transferring from Danville and working his way up to being an impact player off the bench, Ingram was declared ineligible by the Illinois High School Association on Jan. 15 because of residency issues. The IHSA reinstated him on Feb. 5, and he has spent the last month trying to regain the form he lost while out.

He felt it come back last week, when during the regional round of the Class 4A playoffs he totaled eight points and seven rebounds against Mount Carmel and another six points against Marist off the bench.

"I've been getting my rhythm back," Ingram said. "I'm in the flow of things. I'm feeling good."

Ingram comes from a basketball-loving family. Don Ingram, Donte's father, said he played on teams during his 10 years with the U.S. Marine Corps. He outfitted his baby son's room with a basketball and hoop and introduced him to the game as a YMCA coach. Ingram said he learned much from his brother, DaJuan Gouard, a former player at Loyola University and overseas who is an assistant coach at Danville Area Community College.

"We always worked out after school, so we did a lot of skill work," Ingram said. "Anything I told him I needed, we worked on."

A strong perimeter shooter and a player who can fill multiple positions, according to Smith, Ingram worked his way to becoming an all-area honorable mention selection by the Champaign News-Gazette as a sophomore at Danville. The move to Simeon, which his father told the Tribune in January was due to safety concerns, represented a change in basketball culture as he grew accustomed to the Wolverines' lineup of future Division I players and what he called the "tough love" of Smith.

"He fit in early, but basketball-wise it took him a while to pick it up," Smith said. "We're a little bit more structured than a lot of places. Some shots other schools might let him take are shots we won't let him take."

His progress was thrown off by the ineligibility ruling, which forced him to miss seven games. Don Ingram declined to discuss the specifics of the case Monday after watching a Simeon practice.

"We had to take care of business on our side," Don Ingram said. "We had to do things the proper way legally. We had to learn what the discrepancies were, and move forward from there.

"I'd rather not discuss (specifics) because we're trying to put that behind us and move forward because that has been taken care of."

He did say he was proud of how his son handled it. Ingram practiced with the team for three weeks while he was out.

"He's learning how to be a man and a leader," Don Ingram said. "No one's perfect. … You're always going to have situations that come up that you have to deal with that might not be positive. But you have to turn the negative into a positive. When he went through the ineligibility, it made him stronger."

Ingram said he expects to be a leader next season for the Wolverines, who will lose eight seniors to graduation. After that, it remains to be seen whether he will follow the example of his brother. He said he has received interest from some Big Ten and Big East schools but doesn't have any offers.

That, he said, he also can work on.

"I'm being pushed every day," Ingram said. "You've got well-rounded players all around you. You have to bring it every day, so I have to play my best all the time."

ckane@tribune.com