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Mad Ants
vs. Sioux Falls
When: 7 p.m. today
Web cast:
Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Point guard Anthony Harris credits his play with the Mad Ants to hard work over the summer.

Backup guard gives Ants dazzling play

– The kid in the Mad Ants shirt with the ticket stub that he just laid out for Anthony Harris to autograph fidgeted a while until the seated Harris smiled and said hello.

“Uh, nice game,” the boy – probably 9 or 10 – said as he watched Harris carefully sign the ticket.

Kid’s got a keen eye for talent.

What Anthony Harris just did to the Maine Red Claws last Thursday was more than a nice game. How did Ants coach Duane Ticknor see it?

“Anthony Harris was just dynamite,” Ticknor said after the Ants’ 115-109 win over Maine. Then he explained why: “Seven assists and only two turnovers.”

Plus he had 15 points, four rebounds, a steal and two blocked shots in a season-high 47 minutes.

It was the last night of a long January for Harris, who joined the Ants three weeks into the season.

He was brought in to be a backup point guard for Ron Howard, but when Howard went down and out for the better part of seven games with a knee injury, Harris became the starter and chief ball distributor.

After seeing six games last season in Bakersfield, Calif., and time with Sioux Falls a year before that, Harris was finally getting some big minutes, something for which he longed.

It’s the culmination of a rededication, of sorts, for the University of Miami product. He ate better. He worked out more. He became stronger and faster and leaner. And did the Ants ever lean on him.

“I’m proud of what I did this summer in my conditioning and taking care of my body and continuing to be disciplined and work out,” Harris said. “I don’t think I would be in the position to help this team the way I am now if I didn’t be disciplined enough to work out every day.”

The pro game lasts 48 minutes, and, with few options to back up the backup, Harris was playing 44 of them.

Still, he had enough legs left that Thursday night to zip past his man up top, churn down the right side of the lane, and hammer a dunk that ignited the Memorial Coliseum crowd. Even Harris had to pose briefly.

“I’m not used to coming off the dribble and dunking over everybody,” he said.

With the return of Howard on Monday, Harris finally got a chance to catch his breath. Four seconds shy of playing 23 minutes, he had five points and four assists in a 94-81 win over Canton.

“He is just worn out,” Ticknor said. “He is flat worn out. He’s been unbelievable. We’ve just asked so much out of him the last three weeks.

“Excluding (Monday), the last five games, the least amount he’s played are 44 minutes and 30 seconds. We’re asking so much out of him, and he’s just dead. I was so glad we could give him some rest.”

At least for now.