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The Journal Gazette

Monday, March 26, 2018 7:00 pm

Mad Ants playoff game now April 3

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

Zeke Upshaw, who collapsed on the court during the Grand Rapids Drives’ regular-season finale Saturday, died at 26 on Monday.

The G League subsequently postponed its first-round playoff games, which were to be played Tuesday and Wednesday nights, and that has impacted the Mad Ants as they await their second-round opponent. Fort Wayne’s game will now be 7 p.m. April 3 at Memorial Coliseum, and televised on ESPNU, instead of its previously announced Saturday date.

“The Indiana Pacers and Fort Wayne Mad Ants are saddened by the news of the passing of Zeke Upshaw of the Grand Rapids Drive. We send our deepest condolences to his family and friends, as well as to our colleagues at the Drive,” read a statement released by the Pacers, who own and operate the Mad Ants.

The Mad Ants, who won the Central Division title and are the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, will face the winner of the game between Southeast Division-champion Erie and Lakeland, which is the sixth and final seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Erie vs. Lakeland game will be 3 p.m. Saturday in Erie, Pennsylvania, and will be on ESPNews. Fort Wayne lost 2 of 3 games against both the BayHawks and Magic during the regular season.

The first-round game between Grand Rapids and Raptors 905, which had been slated for Wednesday, has been pushed to 7 p.m. Friday in Mississauga, Ontario.

A statement from the Drive, which is affiliated with the NBA’s Detroit Pistons, read: “The Drive family is mourning the tragic loss of Zeke Upshaw. He had a warm personality and was a tremendous representative of our organization both on and off the court. Our thoughts are with all of Zeke’s family and friends during this difficult time."

The undrafted Upshaw, a 6-foot-6 swingman, was in his second season with the Drive, after playing at Illinois State and Hofstra. He had 11 points Saturday before collapsing with about 50 seconds left in a 101-99 victory over Long Island in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a game that propelled the Drive into the playoffs.

In 41 games this season, Upshaw averaged 8.5 points and 2.3 rebounds. It wasn’t disclosed what caused his death.

"Our hearts hurt with the passing of Zeke," Hofstra basketball coach Joe Mihalich said in a statement. "Zeke was one of the kindest and hardest-working student-athletes I have had the privilege to coach. Zeke laid the groundwork for the success we are having now and we will never forget the impact he had on Hofstra basketball. Our entire program is heartbroken that he is no longer with us but his influence will continue to be felt throughout the Pride family.”

The Mad Ants, who received rookie center Ike Anigbogu back from the Pacers on Monday, edged Grand Rapids for the Central Division title. Anigbogu, who has totaled only 2.8 minutes over 10 games with the Pacers, has played in 20 Mad Ants games this season and averaged 8.7 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.7 shot blocks.

The Mad Ants couldn’t face Grand Rapids until a potential Conference Finals match-up. The other team with a first-round bye in the Eastern Conference is top-seeded Westchester, which will meet either Grand Rapids or division-rival Raptors 905 in New York next Monday at 7 p.m.

The Western Conference’s first-round games were also pushed back until Friday and Saturday; Austin and Reno have the byes there, and Texas, Rio Grande Valley, Oklahoma City and South Bay are also competing teams.

A statement by G League president Malcolm Turner read: “The NBA G League family is devastated by the tragic passing of Zeke Upshaw. Zeke was an outstanding young man whose powerful belief in himself and uncommon perseverance led to a successful professional basketball career. A beloved member of the Grand Rapids Drive, Zeke’s continuous improvement and tireless work ethic were hallmarks of his career. We extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends and the Drive organization.”

jcohn@jg.net