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Mad Antics

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    As the lone independent team in the D-League, not to mention the reigning champions, the Mad Ants were in demand this season by NBA franchises and potential place to put their prospects.
Chad Ryan/The Journal Gazette
Ron Howard, right, will be back for the Mad Ants, who have the D-League draft Friday night.

No 1st rounder? No worries for Mad Ants.

The Mad Ants may not have a first-round pick in Friday's D-League draft, but team president Jeff Potter isn't stressing about that.

There's such a talented pool of players, he said, that the Mad Ants will be fine.

"It's not a terrible concern," said Potter, who dealt that first-round pick, along with the 2012 first overall pick, JaJuan Johnson, to Canton last season for Luke Harangody.

"There's a lot of good players going in the draft and we're doing a lot of research. We'll find good players with our second round picks and onward. And you never know, maybe we make a deal and sneak up in the first round."

If something concerns Potter, it's not where the team drafts (13th in the second round), but avoiding a slow start like last season.

That precipitated the big trade and, eventually, the team's first playoff berth and a 27-23 record.

"I don't want to get off to the same poor start as last year. That was nerve-wracking, to say the least," Potter said.

The Mad Ants have a strong nucleus so far, including Ron Howard, Anthony Harris, Chris Porter and Chris Hunter.

Howard, known in these parts as "Mr. Mad Ant," considered playing in Europe, which has claimed other former Mad Ants, such as Sadiel Rojas.

"Honestly, in our league, it's always in doubt (where they'll play) until they sign a contract," Potter said.

"With Ron coming back, you've got an all-star. And we've got some other guys who are good players and made the hearts and soul of what helped us have a successful season. We want a great locker room of guys and those new guys who will come in will know the culture then."

The Mad Ants have a new coach, Conner Henry.

While Potter can make the final determination on any draft pick Friday, it would behoove him to listen to his coach and he knows it.

"We all kind of dice it up and try to come to a consensus," Potter said. "If I ultimately want to go a different way, we can do that. But we want guys who can help us and also fit in Conner's system. It's a new coach and maybe a new way of doing things. He's the guy who knows who will best fit what he wants to do."

Some of the top prospects in this draft include: former Ohio State player William Buford, who was second-team all-Big Ten; longtime NBA player Ricky Davis, who is attempting a comeback; former Miami player Malcolm Grant, a long-range specialist; NBA veteran James Johnson; and Purdue product Lewis Jackson.

Former IPFW player Frank Gaines is also eligible.

The draft is eight rounds, but making selections in the final two rounds is optional.