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The Journal Gazette

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette DeQuan Jones brings NBA experience to the Mad Ants. In the home opener Tuesday, he had four blocks.

Friday, November 10, 2017 1:00 am

Jones brings energy, defense to Mad Ants

Former NBA player surprises coach with four blocked shots

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

DeQuan Jones had a team-best four shot blocks in the Mad Ants' 105-93 victory over the Greensboro Swarm on Tuesday night, but there seems to be a bit of disagreement over whether that will be commonplace this season.

“He's not necessarily a rim protector,” coach Steve Gansey said, though lauding just how good his NBA veteran looked in helping to even the Mad Ants' record at 1-1 heading into tonight's game at Memorial Coliseum against defending champion Raptors 905 (0-1).

But Jones, 27, who played 63 games for the Orlando Magic in 2012-13, said he hopes to prove his coach wrong in this respect.

“My role on this team is to be a defensive stopper and be a defensive presence, not (just) blocking shots but making the right rotations, forcing the guy that's getting into the paint to kick the ball out. That's my game, to come in and bring energy, and that's what I love to do,” said Jones, who in his first two games with Fort Wayne is averaging 8 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 blocks over 31.5 minutes.

The Mad Ants have been led by Walter Lemon Jr.'s averages of 29.5 points, 5 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 steals, while Jarrod Uthoff has scored 20 points per game, rookie Ben Moore is at 14 a game and C.J. Fair has averaged 13, and defensive tenacity was perhaps the biggest part of the victory in the home opener.

Jones, who has been in NBA training camps with the Sacramento Kings, Atlanta Hawks and, this year, with the Indiana Pacers, has the ability to score; he averaged 13.7 points with Reno of the G League in 2013-14.

But he seems more passionate about what he can bring as a leader, since the Mad Ants' roster is filled mostly with players who have three or fewer years of experience, and as a defender on a team that has many known for their ability making stops.

“He's 6-foot-7, Ben's 6-8, C.J.'s 6-8, Jarrod's 6-9,” Gansey said. “With us switching, everyone has to know who they're guarding and know, one through five, who are the shooters and who's not, and our guys are long and built for doing that. There were times last year where Jarrod had five or six blocks.

“We want to continue to show our hands and our chests, not swipe down, and we did a little bit of that. But I was surprised D.J. had four blocks (Tuesday).”

It's not just about the men in the middle, though, since Lemon, rookie Tra-Deon Hollins and Stephan Hicks are known for their prowess swiping the ball away for opponents.

“We have a great group of guys. On top of everything else, they listen and communicate effectively,” Jones said. “Those guys are eager to learn and wherever I can fill in the gaps, I'll pull guys aside.”

Notes: The Mad Ants have partnered with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Fort Wayne for a “Build With the Mad Ants” event from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Nov. 30 at Fullers Landing, 7515 Fullers Run. Members of the community are invited to take part in the volunteer project in shifts alongside Mad Ants players, coaches and staff. More information is available at fortwayne.gleague.nba.com.

jcohn@jg.net