Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette The Mad Ants' DeQuan Jones, here driving on Wisconsin's James Blackmon Jr., will participate in the G League Dunk Contest on Sunday.
Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette The Mad Ants' DeQuan Jones keeps his focus as he works to move the ball around the defense of Wisconsin's Ricky Ledo in the first quarter of Thursday's game at Memorial Coliseum.
Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Mad Ants forward DeQuan Jones, who will participate in the G League's Dunk Contest, goes for a basket over Xavier Gibson of the Lakeland Magic at Memorial Coliseum.
Friday, February 16, 2018 1:00 am
Ants leader Jones to show off dunks
JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette
What: NBA G League International Challenge and Dunk Contest
Who: Mad Ants' Trey McKinney Jones on Team USA; DeQuan Jones dunking
When: 3:30 p.m. Sunday dunk contest, 4:30 p.m. game, halftime dunk finals
Where: Los Angeles Convention Center
TV: Univision Deportes, 4:30 p.m.; all events on NBA.com and Twitch
DeQuan Jones has the most significant NBA experience of anyone on the Mad Ants' roster – 63 games with the Orlando Magic in 2012-13 – to say nothing of his preseason action with the Sacramento Kings, Atlanta Hawks and Indiana Pacers, and stints playing in Italy, Japan and France.
On a Fort Wayne team that includes five rookies, Ben Moore, Ike Anigbogu, Tra-Deon Hollins, Edmond Sumner and Je'lon Hornbeak, and a second-year player, Jarrod Uthoff, the experience of Jones is essential.
It's not just his ability to score – Jones is averaging 15.4 points for the Central Division-leading Mad Ants (21-15) – but also his navigation of a 50-game regular season.
“This game is a game of valleys and peaks,” said Jones, a 27-year-old forward. “You definitely want to peak at the right time. February is about getting our minds set right. You need to get in the mindset of recovery and being able to peak at the right time. You need to know when to scale back practice and things like that, but we're still a full-throttle team.”
Jones will participate Sunday in the G League's Slam Dunk Contest, which begins at 3:30 p.m. in Los Angeles, along with Aaron Best of Raptors 905, Michael Bryson of Iowa, Ike Iroegbu of Agua Caliente and Ike Nwamu of Sioux Falls.
Former Mad Ants player Tony Mitchell won the contest in 2013 and 2014.
The contest will begin before the NBA G League International Challenge, which pits U.S. players chosen from the league against Mexico's national team, and the two-man dunk finals will take place at halftime. The Mad Ants' Trey McKinney Jones will play for the U.S., as he vies for a spot on the U.S. roster for the upcoming World Cup qualifying games.
Jones is coming off a 27-point, eight-rebound performance in the Mad Ants' 122-103 victory over the Maine Red Claws on Saturday. Over the last eight games, Jones has averaged 23.1 points and led the team in scoring four times, no small feat with Walt Lemon Jr., who is coming off a 40-point game, on the roster.
Jones said it takes extra physical and mental work to make sure you're successful while many players wane at this time of year.
“It's a credit to (assistant coach/video coordinator) Alex Cerda and getting in the gym early, putting a lot of extra work in and getting prepared for games,” Jones said. “The coaching staff does a good job of putting me in the right position for success. My teammates find me, and I knock down shots.”
“DeQuan has been playing fantastic, along with a lot of our guys,” Uthoff said. “A lot of rookies, a lot of first- and second-year guys, start to hit a wall. But that's when those guys like DeQuan are stepping up.”
Note: The Mad Ants' Feb. 28 game with Grand Rapids, which is two games back in the division, has been moved to 11 a.m. at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.