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Mad Ants
Vs. Idaho
When: 7:30 p.m. today

From Homestead JV to Ants, player’s route long

Bennie Lewis III has been a professional basketball player since 2009, but Thursday night was the first chance for some members of his family to see him play the pro game.

It was his first game at Memorial Coliseum as a member of the Mad Ants, his first game back home.

He spent about 10 years of his childhood living in Fort Wayne – he played freshman and junior varsity basketball at Homestead – and used to take in Fort Wayne Fury games in the old CBA.

He played at Spiece Fieldhouse, too, before moving to East St. Louis, Ill., where his game blossomed.

“It’s good to be home. Playing back here in Fort Wayne is good. I’m in front of family members who have never had the chance to see me play professionally,” said Lewis, who had eight points and six rebounds Thursday in a 104-101 loss to Iowa.

“But it’s tough coming in and having two close losses in my first two games with the team. Personally, I’ve got to get better every day and keep working.”

As a high school junior, Lewis’ game took shape in part because he got to be near his grandfather, who is legendary in Illinois for having coached four state championship teams at the high school level.

“I got some tutelage from my grandfather and learned a lot of the game from him. I just developed from there,” said Lewis, who went on to play at Division II Benedict College in Columbia, S.C.

After that, he played professionally in Australia, where he was born; his father averaged 23 points per game as a pro there.

“It was a good opportunity for me. I even had citizenship since I was born there,” said Lewis, who averaged about four points per game and won the Slam Dunk Contest last season.

Australia is also where Mad Ants coach Conner Henry was working and noticed Lewis. When both wound up in Fort Wayne this fall, the union made too much sense.

In two games, he’s averaging 8.5 points for the Mad Ants, who play host to Idaho tonight at the Coliseum.

Lewis, 26, conceded that D-League basketball is much different than what he experienced in Australia.

“It’s a lot faster,” Lewis said.

“A lot more athletic guys here. They get up and down, and it’s faster, it takes time to get used to it.”