FORT WAYNE – The last time we looked in on the Mad Ants, they had just taken down the Iowa Energy 119-98 in Des Moines. The following day – Feb. 10 – they flew back into Fort Wayne, from where nearly everyone on the team went their separate ways for an early spring vacation.
But after having a week off from games or practice, the boys are back in town. They resume their NBA D-League season, which has 18 games remaining, tonight in Erie, Pa.
Not everyone is ready, however.
Forward Luke Harangody is expected to miss the next two games with a knee injury. The Ants play at Springfield, Mass., on Saturday.
The 6-foot-8 Harangody is the team’s leading scorer (20.1 average) and rebounder (12.3). He hobbled off the Coliseum floor with nine minutes remaining in the Feb. 8 loss to Rio Grande Valley.
He had hurt his good knee in Canton before the last week we were playing, then he overcompensated by running on his bad leg, and it kind of swelled up and hurt a little bit, Ants coach Duane Ticknor said. It was just a matter of him needing some rest and treatment on it.
We’re going to hold him out through the weekend. I think he’ll be back Tuesday (vs. Erie at home).
Obviously it’s a big impact when you lose your leading scorer and rebounder. It’s an opportunity for other guys to step up and show that they belong on the court.
To fill the roster spot, the Ants acquired former Indiana Tech standout Bryant Austin.
A 6-6 forward, Austin was selected by the Mad Ants in the eighth round of the 2012 NBA D-League draft but was waived by the team before their first game. At Tech, he averaged 10.5 points and 6 rebounds per game as a senior in 2008-09.
Veteran forward Brandon Wallace (4.8 points, 4.3 rebounds) will start in place of Harangody.
The Ants (15-17) are 4 1/2 games behind East Division-leading Canton and 2 1/2 games behind Maine for the eighth playoff berth.
Thanks partly to the NBA All-Star weekend, and also to the quirk in scheduling, the Ants had 12 days without a game.
Much needed by everybody – players, coaches, front office, everybody – after the grueling stretch we went through, Ticknor said. Especially, that road trip really took a lot out of us.
The Ants played nine games in 19 days, and their travel itinerary went from Fort Wayne to Reno to Erie to Fort Wayne to Los Angeles to Canton, Ohio, to Fort Wayne and back to Erie.
I didn’t realize we played that many games in a row until coach told us after the last game, said forward Anthony Richardson, who spent time with his wife in Kansas City, Mo. At times, I could see the fatigue in us. It slowed the plays. Our team thrives on playing with energy. When we don’t have that, we struggle, so we definitely needed that break.
The only two Ants players who played competitively during the off period were Ron Howard and Tony Mitchell, who traveled to Houston to play in the D-League All-Star Game. Howard scored 16 points, and Mitchell won the slam dunk contest at halftime.