FORT WAYNE – When the Mad Ants start defense of their D-League championship in November, they may be with an almost entirely new group of players.
The Mad Ants went 34-16 last season, earning only their second-ever playoff berth, then sailed through the playoffs with a 6-0 record.
D-League co-MVP Ron Howard and Tony Mitchell are possibilities to return, though both will likely get tryouts with NBA teams and get lucrative offers overseas. Veterans Chris Porter, Will Frisby and Ramon Harris will also be among those discussed.
Trey McKinney-Jones will certainly interest the Mad Ants, too, but after playing for the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs in the summer leagues, he could be a hot commodity.
No who knows what our roster will look like but we expect to win, coach Conner Henry said. That will be the message for everyone coming in. Everyone in Fort Wayne plays for each other and everyone shares the basketball.
Henry expects to start the season with about four players from NBA teams.
Henry wants such players to use Peyton Siva and the other Tony Mitchell as the model; last season they embraced their time with the Mad Ants and were quickly recalled to the Pistons with valuable experience.
We have a good thing here, and everyone plays for each other and we’re winning, Henry said. That’s a recipe for success.
In Las Vegas, the D-League Select team coached by Henry went 3-3, led by Mitchell’s 19 points per game and Howard playing regularly. Henry was pleased with the performances, especially after Olek Czyz and Matt Bouldin, who both played last season for Fort Wayne, were unavailable because of injuries.
The most important thing for me was I was pleased with how everyone conducted themselves professionally, on and off the court. Everyone seemed to like paying for the team, Henry said.
The summer league was great venue for Henry and assistant Steve Gansey to scout potential players who could be available in the D-League draft.
Note: Sadiel Rojas has signed to play for UCAM Murcia in Spain this season. Rojas, 25, averaged 12.1 points and 8.6 rebounds last season over 50 games with Fort Wayne.