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Russell back with Mad Ants

Hopes for quick return to NBA

Steve Warden
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Russell

FORT WAYNE – Walker Russell Jr. is back with the Mad Ants. It remains to be seen how long he will be with them.

The 6-foot-1 veteran guard played 16 games with the Ants last season before being called up to the NBA Detroit Pistons, where he played in 28 games and averaged 3 points and 2.1 assists.

“I don’t think I’ll be here long, to be truthful,” Russell said Tuesday prior to a workout at the Concordia Theological Seminary. “But at the same time, while I’m here, I would like to get us off to a good start. The city deserves it.”

The Mad Ants, who begin their sixth season in the NBA Development League with a Nov. 23 game against Erie, have not had a winning season.

The team will have its fifth coach in Duane Ticknor, who coached in Korea last season. He replaces Steve Gansey, who remains with the team as an assistant.

Russell becomes the sixth player from last year’s 14-36 team to re-sign with the Ants. Earlier, Ron Howard, Sean Sonderleiter, Cameron Jones, Jarrid Famous and Sadiel Rojas signed contracts to return for the 2012-13 season.

“His leadership qualities are off the charts,” Ticknor said of Russell, who averaged 16 points and 9.9 assists last season with the Ants. “He’s a great leader that NBA teams Detroit and Oklahoma City both had great things to say about him. Having a veteran leader like him is a key for a new coach. I’m excited to have him back. I think our players are excited to have him back. With the guys we’re looking at bringing in, he’ll be a great fit.”

Russell was recently cut by Oklahoma City.

“This year I’ve got a lot of feedback from execs and GMs to scouts to coaches telling me to stay; you’ll be going soon – maybe before training camp is done,” Russell said. “Of course, at some point I’ve done some unfinished business here. Me, personally, has done good. But the Mad Ants have never had a winning record, and a point guard is like a quarterback and looked at in wins and losses.

“Obviously that’s everybody’s goal (to play in the NBA). I love Fort Wayne. They treat me like family, from the fans to the organization. It’s an easy transition to come back. Would I like to be here? Who wouldn’t want to be in the NBA?”

The Mad Ants will have the No. 1 overall selection in the annual D-League draft Friday.

stwarden@jg.net

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