The Mad Ants are flying back today (Monday) from Santa Cruz, where they were eliminated from the NBA D-League playoffs on Saturday.
It was the first time that any Fort Wayne D-League team made the playoffs in its six years of existence, and the final 27-25 record marked the first winning season, as well.
The next several days will be a period of player evaluation with the organization. Head coach Duane Ticknor, in his first season with the Ants, said he will meet with the team collectively and individually before everyone goes their separate ways in a few days.
At the moment, one can only speculate on how many players return for next season.
Rookie guard/forward Tony Mitchell, who carried the offensive load in the final weeks of the season, certainly played his way into a lucrative overseas contract, if not a strong look by some NBA teams. Mitchell had regular season games of 47 and 49 points, and added a 40-point game in the first round of the playoffs.
Veteran guard Ron Howard had his most prolific scoring year, with a 19.1 average, even though he shifted to point guard once Walker Russell Jr. was traded to Reno early in the season.
Howard, who will be 31 next season, missed 15 games this year due to injuries to his knee and wrist.
The jury is out on veteran front court players Anthony Richardson, Chris Porter, Tommy Smith, Brandon Wallace and Terrance Thomas. Wallace and Richardson were particularly effective this season. Porter played well off the bench. Smith had his moments, but is limited offensively.
Anthony Harris improved throughout the season as the back-up point guard who saw heavy minutes when Howard was out. And swingman Sadiel Rojas is energy off the bench, but also limited in what he can do on a consistent basis.
The Mad Ants showed they belonged this year. Of the four remaining D-League playoff teams, the Ants had a 5-3 record against them in the regular season.
Santa Cruz, whom the Ants beat twice before losing in the playoffs, will play Austin in the next round, and Rio Grande Valley will face Tulsa. The Ants were 1-0 against Austin, 1-2 against RGV, and 1-1 against Tulsa.