PALM HARBOR — They have logged thousands of miles on the family SUV, spent countless hours in gyms all over Florida and practically lived at the Countryside Recreation Center.
That’s life in the Ingram family.
Tim and Linda Ingram have been shuttling their four children to and from more basketball tournaments and camps than they can count. If it wasn’t their oldest son, Tim, then it was daughters Kaylin, Megan or Julia who needed to get to a game or practice.
But now, in this four-month span of high school basketball season, the stars have aligned for the Ingrams.
Tim is off at college. Kaylin is a senior shooting guard at Palm Harbor University, Megan is a junior center, and baby sister Julia is a freshman point guard.
Three sisters. One team. One gym. Once in a lifetime.
“We’re thrilled,’’ Linda Ingram said. “We’ve been looking forward to this for years.’’
Tim Ingram was a basketball player at Westside High School in Omaha, Neb. He was good enough to earn Class A second-team all-state honors, the largest class in the state, as a senior in 1978.
He attended several basketball camps at the University of Kentucky and decided to walk on the basketball team. He was one of five walk-ons who practiced but did not play in games.
“I got to suit up on senior night and play some against Vanderbilt,’’ said Tim, 53. “Otherwise, I just had to guard Kyle Macy in practice.’’
Linda Ingram also has a little basketball history.
At Westbrook (Neb.) Middle School in Omaha, she thought it was unfair that there was a boys basketball team but not a girls team. She lobbied the school to add girls basketball and they finally relented.
Linda went out for the team she helped create …and got cut.
“I think they might have held that against me, or I wasn’t that good,’’ she said. “I became a cheerleader in high school.’’
The Ingrams were high school sweethearts and connected again at the University of Florida (Tim went there for law school after graduation from Kentucky). They were married 11 years before having four kids in five years.
“We thought we couldn’t have kids,’’ Tim said. “Then we had Tim (Jr.) and it was one after the other.’’
Once Tim Jr. took up basketball at age 11, his three younger sisters wanted to play with him. The backyard basketball court became the scene of some epic family pick-up games.
“They were a little feisty,’’ Kaylin said. “It was usually my brother and Julia because she was the youngest. That way we had a post player and a guard.’’
“We had some really fun competitions. That sparked the interest,’’ Megan added. “We played two-on-two games. It started there and now it’s what we love to do.’’
The Ingram sisters played on rec leagues at the Countryside Rec Center for many years. Tim was the coach for Kaylin and Megan, but all three sisters were never on the same team.
They also play travel ball for the Suncoast Basketball Club. Because Julia is so much younger than Kaylin, she had never been able to play on her sister’s teams until this year.
“I’ve always been following them to their events,’’ Julia said. “I was always there but I couldn’t play with them because I was too young. I’ve always been working at home for the day that I could play with them. I get to be with them and finally reach my potential because they bring it out in me.
“They’ve been welcoming to me. But then again, they’re my sisters. They have to be welcoming.’’
And anyone who has been around the Ingram sisters for even a few minutes knows they like to have fun. They are constantly smiling and laughing and completing each other’s sentences.
And they tend to keep practices and games loose.
“They are bubbly all the time, all the time,’’ junior guard Chardonay Aldrich said. “I love them. They are the best teammates you could ever have.’’
Hurricanes coach Darian Dublin agrees.
“I call them a bunch of comedians,’’ Dublin said. “They tell a lot of jokes. It’s good for the team. There’s no drama on this team.’’
That doesn’t mean the Ingrams can’t be serious. All three are in the school’s International Baccalaureate program. Megan averages a team high 12.9 points per game. Julia averages 7.3 and Kaylin chips in with 5.5.
The Hurricanes, who are off to an 11-0 start, face their biggest challenge next week at the Queen of Palms Classic in Fort Myers. This is the fifth year PHU has played in the prestigious tournament and will open play against Lakewood Ranch.
“That’s good competition,’’ Dublin said. “It’s the only way to get any better.”
And speaking of good competition, which sister is the better player? That question produces a roar of laughter from the sisters.
“Julia is way better than I was when I was a freshman,’’ Kaylin said. “I’m excited to see how she is as a senior.’’
But the younger sisters don’t let Kaylin get away with that answer.
“(Kaylin) has always been a role model for the both of us,’’ Megan said. “With her moral choices and playing basketball.’’
“She set the standard for us,’’ Julia added. “She laid the path for us to play here at Palm Harbor.’’
Kaylin, blushing, sums up what this winter is like for her and her sisters.
“I’m so excited to finally be playing with them,’’ she said.
Rodney Page can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @RodneyHomeTeam.