FORT WAYNE – Anthony Harris is coming off a good season with the Mad Ants – he averaged 9 points and 4.4 assists per game, locking down the starting point guard job – but he felt disrespected, too.
By the opposition, that is.
For the first time in his career, his shots werent going down.
And opposing players noticed. They didnt treat him like the game-breaking shooter he felt he should be.
But there was a reason for it.
He joined the Mad Ants more than a month into the season already nursing a torn ligament in his thumb, and then he tore a ligament in his pinky finger.
It altered my whole shot, and I felt so disrespected last year when people were going under on me, said Harris, at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds. For the first time in my career, comfortable shooting certain shots. I couldnt get a good hold on the ball.
The silver lining was that he was able to let his ball-handling and passing skills blossom. Having never been a full-time point guard in the D-League – hes played there since 2010 – he was given the point and helped Fort Wayne to a 27-23 record and its first-ever playoff berth.
I think I had a pretty good year as far as distributing the ball and improving my turnover ratio. That was a big thing for me coming in here, said Harris, who averaged 2 turnovers per game, down from 2.5 per game in 2011-12 with Bakersfield.
My experience in the D-League, I had played a combo – 1 and 2 (guard) – and to stick with it full time (at point guard) and have a great assist-to-turnover ratio was a big goal of mine, and I think I achieved it.
The Mad Ants open their season Friday at Texas, and Harris should be a starter at guard, along with Ron Howard.
Anthony Harris, he would probably start on most teams in our league, Mad Ants president Jeff Potter said. He was a key guy I wanted back. When you get Anthony and Ron out there together, man, theyre fast, and they know how to take care of the ball.
And Anthony is a tough kid. Hes had some injuries with his hand. But he was working hard at it all summer. Were really loaded at point guard, and it gives us a lot of flexibility.
Harris treated the offseason as a chance to make his entire game better. He worked on rehabilitating and strengthening his fingers and regaining his shooting touch, which he thinks he accomplished.
He also made sure that when he played over the summer, it involved a lot of physical games, something he shied away from in previous years to avoid injuries.
It was really frustrating (last season). I didnt feel comfortable shooting shots when guys went under. And when youre used to being the guy that hits shots, it makes you feel a certain (bad) way as a player, said Harris, 28, who played in college for Miami.
This summer, I played a lot of pickup and a lot of things in Chicago to try and put myself in a lot of game-like situations. I got to see how people would play me and get back into a rhythm of making shots off pick and rolls. I got a lot of looks this summer of what it might be like during the season, and it helped a lot.
The Mad Ants backcourt is fairly crowded. Howard has experience running the point, and rookie Trey McKinney-Jones could get some opportunities, too.
But Harris hasnt given up on the dream of playing in the NBA, so another good season could get him some looks, though hes not holding his breath.
He realizes that he was jobless at this time last year and, for now, just playing is a good thing.
Im fortunate for the moment. Ive been in some tough situations where you think its promising (that youll get called by an NBA team), but its not. Youre expecting a certain job or to get a certain call, and it doesnt come around, Harris said.
Last year, (the job with the Mad Ants) came last minute, New Years Eve. I wasnt expecting a call, but thats how quickly things can change.
Im a big believer in humble beginnings. And Im hoping to play good and people will see it, whether (its the NBA) or overseas.
But first, hell have to start making more shots, and he knows it.