They’ll spend this truncated season almost 1,100 miles from Memorial Coliseum, but the Mad Ants’ roster should have a somewhat familiar feel.
The roster of 12 players obtained by The Journal Gazette today has five who were with the team last season: Naz Mitrou-Long, Daxter Miles Jr., JaKeenan Gant, Amida Brimah and Brian Bowen II.
The Mad Ants also bolstered their roster with draft picks Oshae Brissett and Quincy McKnight.
“This will be such an awesome experience for these players, who wouldn’t have otherwise played for just such an extended length of time – March of last year to potentially next (NBA) Summer League, whenever that is. To get them on the court, get them game reps, is I think by far the most important part of this,” said general manager Brian Levy, whose Mad Ants will embark on a truncated 15-game season around Feb. 8.
The Mad Ants are among 18 teams who will play in Orlando, Florida. Eleven teams have opted out. The top eight will qualify for a single-elimination playoff.
“The hardest thing to do is try to get your team to play together, to get them to sacrifice a little bit of their game for the good of the team,” new Mad Ants coach Tom Hankins said. “I think that’s one of the biggest battles going in, as a coach, trying to sell that. But at the same time, you want to convince the guys that you’re there and trying to help them advance (in their careers).”
Mitrou-Long, 27, a guard, averaged 13.7 points, 6.1 assists and 5.9 rebounds in 14 games with Fort Wayne last season. He also played five games with the Indiana Pacers, including a game of 12 points, three assists and three rebounds in defeating Brooklyn.
Miles, 26, a guard, averaged 14.4 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2 assists in 21 games with Fort Wayne.
Gant, 24, a forward, averaged 8 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 29 games with the Mad Ants, and he’s spent time this season playing in South Korea.
Brimah, 26, a center, was supposed to be a key cog of last season’s team but tore his ACL in October, 2019.
“He’s been cleared to play and we’re excited to get him back,” Levy said. “It’s been over a year in the making, trying to get him on the court for the Mad Ants. He led the G League in blocks two years ago (with Austin), so we’re expecting a nice defensive presence.”
The Mad Ants had two second-round picks in today's draft and selected Brissett, a 6-foot-8 forward, and McKnight, a 6-4 guard.
Brissett, 22, was a rookie last season out of Syracuse who played on a two-way contract with the Toronto Raptors. In 19 NBA games, he averaged 2 points, 1.4 rebounds and 7.1 minutes. With the G League’s Raptors 905, he averaged 16 points and 7.1 rebounds.
The Mad Ants are set to run the systems of new Pacers coach Nate Bjorkgren, who was an assistant last season with the NBA Raptors, so Brissett should already be familiar with the terminology and playbook.
“We liked him already from a size, athleticism and versatility standpoint,” Levy said. “Obviously, he’s a guy who had been on a two-way contract (last season) and played in the NBA a little bit. It was great experience for him and he’s going to fit really nicely with our athletic up-tempo, the versatile lineup we’ve got going.”
McKnight, 25, is a rookie out of Seton Hall. Last season, he averaged 11.9 points, 5.4 assists and 3.3 rebounds over 30 games.
The Mad Ants expect to have the Pacers on two-way contracts – Bowen and Cassius Stanley. Their roster is filled out by Rayshaun Hammonds, Josh Gray, Devin Robinson, three players who were in camp with the Pacers, and Anthony Lawrence.
Lawrence, the top pick in the 2019 G League draft, is a 24-year-old forward who averaged 9 points and 4 rebounds for Northern Arizona last season.