FORT WAYNE – The Mad Ants are affiliated with more NBA teams – Indiana, Detroit, Milwaukee, Memphis, Charlotte and Orlando – than any other team in the D-League.
But it’s doesn’t mean the Mad Ants are made up of only young prospects.
They have only three players – the Pacers’ Orlando Johnson, plus the Pistons’ Peyton Siva and Tony Mitchell – from an affiliated team right now, and only two other prospects have been sent down this season.
Instead, the Mad Ants are a veteran team hoping to win a playoff championship, not just help players move to the next level.
The difference between us and other teams is we have a lot of veterans, forward Will Frisby said.
The Mad Ants (16-12) have 22 games remaining, starting today against Sioux Falls (17-9) at Memorial Coliseum.
The Mad Ants are trying to get just their second postseason berth since they started in 2007. They got their first last season. Were the playoffs to begin today, they would be in.
Part of the reason is their veteran depth. They consistently go 10 players deep during games, and Trey McKinney-Jones, Sadiel Rojas and Chris Porter have showed patience when their playing time has been cut into because players including Solomon Hill and Jamaal Franklin got sent down from the NBA.
We have guys who have played years in the D-League or years overseas. We know how to play our role. When it’s our time to be called, we know how to do what needs to be done, said Frisby, who epitomized the Mad Ants’ philosophy in a 105-95 victory over Canton last Saturday, when he sat most of the game and then scored all of his 11 points in the fourth quarter.
The Mad Ants haven’t had much trouble integrating NBA players this season. Siva has averaged 12.6 points and 5.1 assists in seven games, and Mitchell has averaged 7.1 points and 7.3 rebounds in eight games.
But the return of Tony R. Mitchell (17.6 points per game), the D-League’s Rookie of the Year last season, has been noticeable because it’s cut into the effectiveness of All-Star Ron Howard (22.3 points per game).
In their last game, a 97-95 loss at Erie on Wednesday, Mitchell made 7 of 23 shots for 18 points and Howard was 8 of 16 for 25 points.
The Mad Ants, who have won 10 of 15 games, believe they can overcome any obstacles, even those of chemistry, because they have a savvy group. They really have only four rookies – McKinney-Jones, Siva, the Pistons’ Mitchell and Kyle Randall – and when games are on the line, the veterans help lead the way.
With a lot of our games recently, it’s been a lot like playoff basketball where there’s really one, two, three, maybe five possessions in the game that separate teams from victory, coach Conner Henry said.
Notes: Fans are encouraged to bring gently used books to the next four Mad Ants games for donation to the Read to Achieve Book Drive. For every book donated, fans will get a buy-one-ticket-get-one-free coupon. The first 1,000 women at tonight’s game will get free market tote bags, courtesy of Vera Bradley, for Ladies Night.