FORT WAYNE – To put the Mad Ants’ depth into perspective, consider this: The only two players on the roster who have played this season in the NBA, Tony Mitchell and Jamaal Franklin, are coming off the bench for Fort Wayne.
That incredible depth – the Mad Ants have used 11 players in games – is a big reason they have positioned themselves as one of the best teams in the D-League.
With a 28-15 record, they have won 11 of their last 13 games and gone 13 games over .500 for the first time in franchise history.
We joke about it, that we’ve got three or four guys on the bench who could start for most teams in this league, the Mad Ants’ Matt Bouldin said. We’re definitely talented, and it’s hard to get everybody minutes. Whoever is playing well, you’ve just got to leave them out there and it’s the way it goes.
Tonight, the Mad Ants play at rival Iowa (24-17).
With seven games remaining in the regular season, the Mad Ants are atop the East Division and have the second-best record in the league behind Rio Grande Valley (29-14). All three division winners, and the next best five teams, will make the postseason.
Fort Wayne has been led by all-star Ron Howard, who has averaged 20.7 points, 4.2 assists and 4.1 rebounds over 42 games, and he’s the only player to start every game in which he’s played.
Mitchell, who saw action in three games with the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, has averaged 20 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 23 games with Fort Wayne. Franklin, a Memphis Grizzlies prospect, has averaged 17.5 points and 6.2 rebounds in 11 D-League games.
And, of course, there are also Trey McKinney-Jones (15.2 points, 4.5 rebounds), Sadiel Rojas (12 points, 8.6 rebounds), Will Frisby, Timothy Olbrecht and so on.
In his first season coaching the Mad Ants, Conner Henry’s best work is perhaps coming in managing the minutes and personalities of players who want to be on the court.
We’re deep, Henry said. Tony probably deserves to play 40 minutes. Jamaal deserves to play 40 minutes. Trey deserves to play, as do Ron and Sadiel. There’s just not 40 minutes out there for a lot of guys.
What I’m pleased about, and I hope the guys are realizing it, is that, Man, when I get in, I’ve got to play my minutes and do the best I can for the group.’ And we’ve been getting there.
Against Iowa, the Mad Ants are 6-2 this season. The Mad Ants beat them in the last meeting, 133-113 at Memorial Coliseum on March 1.