FORT WAYNE – Mad Ants coach Conner Henry knows this much: His team lacks size.
So when training camp opens today, one of the points that will be hammered home is that the players have to play a determined, tough brand of basketball to make up for any physical deficiencies.
That’s the thing we have to rely on, as a group, said Henry, who is in his first season as the Mad Ants coach, after Duane Ticknor left for an assistant-coaching job with the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies.
The five guys we have on the floor, they can make up for a 6-foot-9, 6-foot-10 or 7-footer that we may be missing down low. We have to be really good defensively, in space and be physically and emotionally tough.
Seventeen players will be in camp, including returning stars Ron Howard, Chris Hunter and Chris Porter.
All five of the Mad Ants’ draft picks – Alfred Aboya, Brandon Beasley, Kyle Randall, Salim Stoudamire and Titus Robinson – will also be there.
The early communication with each one has been positive and seamless, Henry said.
By Nov. 21, the Mad Ants have to determine their active roster of 10 players – the season opens Nov. 22 at Texas – though they could hang on to a couple of inactive players.
Needless to say, Henry wants a competitive training camp, which begins with practices this morning and afternoon at Concordia Theological Seminary.
I think all of us are ramped up, he said. Since (last week), we’ve really started to narrow everything down and focus on who we have and what we want to try to get accomplished.
We’re excited. We think we’ve got a good group coming in.
Last season, the Mad Ants went 27-23 and made the postseason for the first time, though standouts from last season – Tony Mitchell, Sadiel Rojas and Luke Harangody – are gone.
Henry said he expects Howard and others to pick up the slack.
This will be the Mad Ants’ seventh season in the D-League, and they are the minor-league affiliate of Indiana, Detroit, Charlotte, Milwaukee, Memphis and Orlando.
(At camp), as you’ll see, we’ve got a lot of guys. We’ve got the maximum number the league allows, which is 17, and a lot of 6-4, 6-7 lengthy wing players, Henry said. I’ve tried to construct the team in that way.
We’ve got some areas that we’re going to need to work on. We’re not big, so we’re going to have to play as a group, physically, tough and focused. We’re going to have to get rebounds and some teams will be bigger than us, which is a concern.