FORT WAYNE – The Mad Ants have so many good players that it might be easy to forget Matt Bouldin.
They have so many guards, especially, that the same might hold true.
But Bouldin’s contributions are a big reason the Mad Ants are in the D-League semifinals. Their best-of-three series against Sioux Falls begins Thursday at Sioux Falls, S.D.
We have so many weapons on this team, Bouldin said. Every night someone can come out and have a big game. It’s not just Ron Howard, Tony Mitchell, Will Frisby or Trey McKinney-Jones. Every night, somebody can do it, and I don’t feel like I’m getting overlooked.
In the first-round sweep of Reno, Bouldin averaged 16 points, second on the team to Mitchell’s 19. Bouldin had a team-best seven assists per game and also averaged six rebounds, as the regular-season champion Mad Ants got the first playoff series win in the franchise’s seven seasons.
His four steals per game lead everyone in the D-League playoffs.
The Mad Ants acquired Bouldin, a 26-year-old former Gonzaga player, in a Feb. 14 trade with the Delaware 87ers for a second-round pick in this year’s draft. While it looked like it was to provide depth behind Howard, Mitchell and McKinney-Jones, Bouldin has been more than that.
He averaged 12.9 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 18 regular-season games, starting 13 of them.
They have done an unbelievable job of welcoming me. And every game, I feel more comfortable out there, said the 6-foot-5, 215-pound Bouldin. Whether it’s the play calls or the defense of my teammates, it’s going well.
The Mad Ants were 3-2 against Sioux Falls this season. Mitchell averaged a team-best 22.7 points in the regular-season series, and Howard had 15.2.
The Skyforce no longer has Justin Hamilton, but Henry Walker scored 14.6 points per game against the Mad Ants, while Larry Drew II had 13 and DeAndre Liggins had 10.4
In the Skyforce’s three-game first-round victory over Canton, Tre Kelley averaged 17.7 points and Liggins had 16.7.
But fourth-seeded Sioux Falls (31-19 in the regular season) isn’t nearly as deep as top-seeded Fort Wayne (34-16).
There are a lot of guys on our team that would be starting for most teams in this league, Bouldin said. That says a lot about the guys on our team and our coaches; to try and keep everybody happy is tough. We’re such a well-balanced team, and it’s going to help us in the long run.
The winner of this series will take on the winner of fifth-seeded Rio Grande Valley vs. sixth-seeded Santa Cruz, with that series starting Thursday in Texas.
Note: The Mad Ants will lose their affiliation with the Detroit Pistons next season. The Pistons will affiliate with a franchise in Grand Rapids, Mich., that is moving from Springfield, Mass. The Mad Ants have six affiliations this season: Detroit, Indiana, Milwaukee, Memphis, Orlando and Charlotte, though they’ve gotten players from only three of them.