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Mad Ants
vs. Rio Grande Valley
When: 7:30 p.m. today
Webcast: fortwaynehoops.com

Confidence growing for Mad Ants rookie

– If you watched the Mad Ants’ 114-89 victory over Reno on Thursday night – it was Fort Wayne’s fifth consecutive win – you probably noticed Trey McKinney-Jones’ confidence blossom.

In the first half, he had a couple of wide-open runs toward the net and settled for layups. By the fourth quarter, those turned into a couple of thunderous dunks, as he scored a game-high 28 points.

“My teammates were getting on me,” said McKinney-Jones, a rookie out of Miami, who was in training camp with the Milwaukee Bucks. “They see what I do in practice, and they see I can get up a little bit. So when I didn’t dunk the ball early in the game, they were getting on me, and I had to redeem myself in the second half.”

He is averaging 18.4 points and 5.3 rebounds in eight games with the Mad Ants (6-5), missing three with a back injury.

“Trey struggled just a little bit early on, and then he had two really good games before getting hurt,” coach Conner Henry said. “He hasn’t quite been finishing at the rim a couple times, missed a couple shots (Thursday), but we’ve all just been encouraging him to stick with it.”

The Mad Ants, who play host tonight to Rio Grande Valley (10-2), will have some new additions to the lineup – rookies Tony Mitchell and Peyton Siva were assigned to Fort Wayne by the Detroit Pistons.

The Vipers will have to be cognizant of McKinney-Jones, who is more adept at shooting than dunking – he is 41.9 percent from 3-point range – and will make a team pay from the free-throw line, too.

He hit the first 31 free throws of the season before missing one Thursday, after a Reno player knocked the ball off the rim without the officials noticing. McKinney-Jones was 5 of 7 in the game from the free-throw line.

“I definitely was aware of the streak and then he tipped my free throw out, and I was kind of pissed,” McKinney-Jones said. “But I’m going to just continue to make my free throws. Now that the streak is over, I won’t have any pressure with it.”

McKinney-Jones’ free-throw percentage of 94.1 is second to Rio Grande Valley’s Troy Daniels, who has made 95 percent of his shots.

Rio Grande Valley has three of the top nine scorers in the D-League – Daniels at 24 points per game and Isaiah Canaan at 21.7 – while Fort Wayne’s Ron Howard ranks eighth at 22 points per game.

McKinney-Jones is the only player other than Howard to lead Fort Wayne in scoring this season.

“He hits a 3 and then a dunk and all of a sudden you’re rolling,” Henry said. “He’s a good free throw shooter. He’s a flat-out good shooter.”

jcohn@jg.net

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