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The Journal Gazette

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette The Mad Ants' DeQuan Jones, right, keeps his focus as he works to move the ball around the defense of Wisconsin's Ricky Ledo at Memorial Coliseum. Jones has led the Fort Wayne offense in the wake of losing Walt Lemon Jr. and Trey McKinney Jones to the NBA.

Sunday, February 25, 2018 1:00 am

Ants adjust to lineup changes

Pacers send back center Anigbogu

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

Players arriving from the NBA almost seemed like a curse as much as a blessing earlier in the season, but the Mad Ants seem to have mastered the art of moving players in and out of their lineup.

The Central Division-leading Mad Ants (23-15) have won seven of their last nine games, enduring a plethora of NBA-related transactions, including the arrival and subsequent departure of Glenn Robinson III. They are 2-0 since their leading scorer, Walt Lemon Jr., was signed by the New Orleans Pelicans and their captain, Trey McKinney Jones, went to the Indiana Pacers.

On Saturday, the Pacers sent rookie center Ike Anigbogu to the Mad Ants. Fort Wayne also signed guard Michael Orris, who averaged 2 points, 3.5 assists, 1.8 rebounds and 17.2 minutes in 15 games for the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario, California, and released Skylar Spencer, who had played sparingly in 15 games.

Fort Wayne has struggled when the Pacers, who own and operate the Mad Ants, sent down players – the Mad Ants were 8-1 and atop the G League before such moves sent them into a tailspin in December – but now they know how to deal and adapt.

“Absolutely, the biggest thing is communicating with those guys (arriving), communicating on the court and beforehand, before games, especially about personnel and defensive matchups and tendencies,” DeQuan Jones said. “As long as we continue to communicate the way we have, I think we'll be fine.”

Jones, who won the G League's Slam Dunk Contest on Feb. 18, led the Mad Ants in scoring in six of the last 10 games. He's now averaging 16.3 points and 4.5 rebounds.

Also stepping up lately have been Tra-Deon Hollins, the rookie point guard who has averaged 9.7 assists in the last three games, and Ben Moore, who had the winning shot in Friday's 112-110 victory over the Canton Charge.

Anigbogu has averaged 6.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.9 shot blocks in 14 games for the Mad Ants, who are 8-6 with him in the lineup heading into the 5 p.m. game today at Memorial Coliseum against the Iowa Wolves (18-19).

“It's definitely an adjustment when you've got guys like Glenn and Ike, guys who are great players, coming in,” said Jarrod Uthoff, who has three double-doubles in the last six games. “They're such great players. It's definitely an adjustment, but we're getting better at putting our arms around them and welcoming them in.”