FORT WAYNE – It took six seasons for the Mad Ants to get to the playoffs – it happened last season when they lost in the first round to Santa Cruz – and the team believes it will build on that success starting with the 2013-14 opener Friday at Texas.
The Mad Ants’ coach is new; Conner Henry has replaced Duane Ticknor, who is now an assistant with the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies.
And most of the players are different, too.
Expectations are always high around here, Mad Ants president Jeff Potter said. We want to do well, and we think we have the players and coaches to have a good season and build off what we got started last season.
Back for the Mad Ants, who were 27-23 last season, are their star guards, Ron Howard and Anthony Harris, along with Terrance Thomas, Chris Porter and Sadiel Rojas.
I wanted to get as many guys back as we could, Potter said.
Rojas, who began the season in Europe, returned Wednesday. He averaged 8.1 points and 6.2 rebounds in 50 games last season.
To make room, the team cut Kyle Randall.
Some of our newcomers, such as Trey McKinney-Jones and Olek Czyz, will bring a lot to us.
They have a lot of athleticism. They know how to score and do a lot of things on the basketball court, Potter said.
The players realize that, in light of last season’s success, management and the fans will expect at least the same now.
Whenever you set a standard, there are going to be new expectations, Harris said.
Especially in light of last season with some of the streaks and successes we had, such as the winning streak of (eight) games and after the all-star break going (12-6). Those are challenges that you want. You set new goals and you want to start the season off ahead instead of behind.
Last season, Howard, who has played in each of the Mad Ants’ seasons, averaged 19.1 points and 4.7 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game.
Harris averaged 9 points and 4.4 assists.
Thomas averaged 8.2 points and 6.1 rebounds.
The Mad Ants outscored their opponents 104.1 to 101.5 per game.
Our biggest goal right now is to start off the season good, Harris said, noting last season the Mad Ants got off to a 3-10 start before reshaping the roster and making the run toward the playoffs.
I don’t want to go through what we did at the beginning of last season, Potter said.
The first game at Memorial Coliseum will be Nov. 29 against Maine.
Former IPFW player Frank Gaines, a rookie, is among 12 players vying for the last 10 spots on Maine’s active roster.