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Mad Ants
at Springfield
When: 6 p.m. today

Mad Ants feeling like a big family

The Mad Ants come out of the All-Star break with a 19-13 record, having won 13 of their last 19 games. It’s a bit different from last season, when they were 15-17 and just trying to claw their way into their first playoff spot after 32 games.

“I’ve loved the atmosphere all season,” forward Sadiel Rojas said. “We’ve loved each other in the locker room and it’s like a big family and that’s the most important part and why we come out and pull it together when we’re down in the games. And if we lose a few, it’s how we pull it together and get back to winning. We’re feeling good about this season.”

In Saturday’s All-Star game in New Orleans, the lone Fort Wayne representative, Ron Howard, had two points and a game-best 11 assists in a 145-142 victory for the Prospects team over the Futures.

At halftime of that game, Fort Wayne’s Tony R. Mitchell successfully defended his title in the Slam Dunk Contest; two of his five dunks were set up by Howard passes out of the stands.

Tonight, the Mad Ants take on the Springfield (Mass.) Armor (11-19), which has won 5 of 7.

“It’s good that they (got) out of here and did not think about basketball for a couple days,” Fort Wayne coach Conner Henry said of his team. “The season is a grind physically, and if they can freshen up, that’s good. Springfield is on a roll and starting to believe. We’ll have a very difficult game coming out of the All-Star break, but I expect us to be ready.”

The Mad Ants have had a lot of changes to their lineup this season because of trades and NBA assignments. Although there are no NBA prospects in the lineup right now, the Indiana Pacers have sent down Solomon Hill and Orlando Johnson, the Detroit Pistons have sent down Peyton Siva and the other Tony Mitchell, and the Memphis Grizzlies have assigned Jamaal Franklin at various times this season.

It hasn’t been a problem for the veteran-laden Mad Ants. “When you have veterans who like the new players, and like the rookies, it’s not an issue,” Rojas said. “We’ve accepted the rookies and told them, ‘We want you to shoot the ball. We want you to score.’ We’ve tried to make everybody feel comfortable. We don’t have an atmosphere with the veterans where everyone is just trying to get theirs.

“Ron Howard took me in as a rookie, and we’ve done the same thing with Trey McKinney-Jones this season. That’s the philosophy.”

In their only meeting this season, Fort Wayne defeated Springfield 117-108 on Jan. 24.

Howard leads the Mad Ants with 21.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. Tony R. Mitchell is averaging 18.9 points and 5.2 rebounds. McKinney-Jones is averaging 15.8 points and 4.4 rebounds.

jcohn@jg.net

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