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Ants’ role players step up when called on

– Basketball has its chest-thumpers and its chest-bumpers.

The thumpers are the players who, on occasion after they score, fist-thump their heart and point to the crowd.

The bumpers are the guys who stand on the floor with their sweats still on during pregame introductions and chest-bump the starters.

Because first-year coach Duane Ticknor brought in veterans who play their roles instead of play to the crowd, the Mad Ants (19-19) have more bumpers than thumpers this season.

“I think it’s been, without a doubt, crucial to the success we’ve had,” Ticknor said. “Not everyone can be a scorer. Everybody’s got to accept their role. That’s how you become successful at any level of basketball, but particularly at the pro level. It’s hard to find guys who can fit into those situations.

“We picked up some veteran guys that we kind of knew what we were getting when we brought them in. Tommy (Smith), Chris (Porter), Brandon (Wallace), Anthony Richardson – those are all guys we targeted over the summer, and we were fortunate enough to get them all on board here.”

And Ticknor inherited last year’s holdover bumper, Sadiel Rojas.

“He’s an impact player,” said Ticknor, who also mentioned backup point guard Anthony Harris.

Something on each:

Richardson averages 13.9 points and 4.9 rebounds but has had scoring games of 30, 28, 26, twice for 22 and once for 20.

Rojas had zero points on Jan. 3 and 20 on Jan. 5. In 35 minutes against Springfield recently, he had zero points – again – and 12 rebounds.

In Wallace’s last two starts he had double-doubles: 11 points and 10 boards against Canton, and 16 points and 11 rebounds against Idaho.

Porter, who averages 2.8 points, has started twice. The last time was against Springfield after the Ants had lost two in a row. Porter responded with 17 points.

Smith doesn’t score much but is a defensive force around the rim. He has had two or more blocks in six of his last nine games, and he has had seven steals in his last four games.

Harris, with starting guard Ron Howard injured, came up with a monster night against Maine, with 15 points and 17 assists.

“Everyone at this level is capable of having those nights,” Ticknor said. “It’s just getting the opportunity. We’ve got Tony (Mitchell), Ron and Luke (Harangody). They’re going to do the bulk of our scoring, and our offense is geared that way. But a lot of times, especially Anthony Richardson can wind up with some pretty good mismatches, and he’s taken advantage of it.”

stwarden@jg.net

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