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Mad Ants NBADL

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Mad Ants
vs. Maine
When: 7 p.m. today, 7:30 p.m. Friday
Web: www.fortwaynehoops.com

Ants have tough hill to climb

– The Mad Ants have already had an eventful 2011-12 NBA Development League season.

They’ve fired the coach who has won more D-League games than anybody, replaced him with a 26-year-old rookie, got another inexperienced (but highly recognizable) coach as an assistant, had two players go to the NBA (one who came back), suffered through a spate of injuries, and had 20 players on the roster, 18 of whom have started at least once.

Consider this the early stages of the second half as the Mad Ants (10-16) begin a three-game home series with the Maine Red Claws (9-17) at 7 tonight in Memorial Coliseum. The teams play again at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Feb. 9.

Despite being eight games behind first-place Iowa in the East Conference, the Ants are just three games behind second-place Springfield (13-13) for the final playoff spot.

“First of all, everybody’s got to stay healthy,” forward Darnell Lazare said. “(We have to) try to keep this group of guys as long as we can to develop some cohesiveness on the offensive and defensive end.”

Since coach Joey Meyer was released after a 5-10 start, Steve Gansey, elevated from assistant, has guided the Ants to five wins over their last 11 games. Meanwhile, former Duke All-America center and 13-year NBA veteran Christian Laettner was added as Gansey’s assistant.

Guard Ron Howard (19.8 points per game) remains sidelined with a fractured thumb on his right shooting hand. Howard is expected to miss the next two games against Maine.

stwarden@jg.net

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