The Journal Gazette
 
 
Friday, December 31, 2021 1:00 am

Mad Ants bring Lemon back to Fort Wayne

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

Walt Lemon Jr., one of the most successful players in Mad Ants history, re-signed with the team Thursday. The Mad Ants also signed Russ Smith and lost Nate Hinton, who got a 10-day contract from the Indiana Pacers.

Lemon, 29, had been with Ezzahra Sports in Tunisia. Last season, he played for Hapoel Tel Aviv in Israel, averaging 10.6 points, 4.3 assists and 2.1 rebounds.

Lemon had played three previous seasons with the Mad Ants – 2015-16, 2017-18 and 2019-20 – and he's also played 11 NBA games with the New Orleans Pelicans (2017-18) and Chicago Bulls (2018-19).

In his last stint with Fort Wayne, the speedy guard averaged 20.3 points, 6.6 assists and 4.5 rebounds in 39 games in 2019-20.

The Mad Ants have had a bevy of players called to the NBA recently – Hinton, Terry Taylor and Keifer Sykes to the Pacers, Justin Anderson to the Cleveland Cavaliers – and Fort Wayne has been looking to its past for reinforcements. The Mad Ants re-signed Stephan Hicks on Dec. 13.

“Walt and I have worked together for multiple seasons, as he was with the Ants when I first started,” Mad Ants general manager Chris Taylor said in a news release. “During our time together, I saw him put arguably more time in the gym than any player I have been around, and that ultimately earned him 10-day contracts with Pelicans, a two-way contract with Boston, and (to) average over 14 (points per game) with his hometown Chicago Bulls.

“I am thankful this has worked out and he's returned to our organization where he has seen his most success. I know he will continue to put the necessary work in while helping our team on the court and find himself in a better basketball situation as a result. Walt has embraced the G League over the years and we are excited to see him back in a Mad Ants uniform – and I know for a fact he is, too.”

In franchise history, Lemon ranks third in points (2,321), assists (671) and steals (207).

Hinton, 22, averaged 8.4 points and 5.5 rebounds in 14 games for the Mad Ants, who play host to Raptors 905 at Memorial Coliseum on Jan. 6. The Mad Ants will have a 0-0 record after the completion of the Showcase Cup Tournament segment of the season ended this month.

Smith, 30, a former Louisville standout, had been playing in China for the Sichuan Blue Whales. He has NBA experience with Memphis and New Orleans. He played as a rookie for the Mad Ants in 2014-15, averaging 15.1 points and 5.9 assists in seven games.

jcohn@jg.net


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