Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Mad Ants rookie forward Travin Thibodeaux drives to the basket against the Wisconsin Herd at Memorial Coliseum on Tuesday.
Katie Fyfe | The Journal Gazette Mad Ants forward Travin Thibodeaux drives to the basket while Lakeland Magic's Reggis Onwukamuche tries to block him at Memorial Coliseum.
Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Mad Ants forward Travin Thibodeaux dives for a loose ball against the Wisconsin Herd at Memorial Coliseum on Tuesday.
Saturday, March 23, 2019 1:00 am
Rookie Thibodeaux shows greatest growth
Mad Ants forward wins kudos for doing little things
JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette
If the Mad Ants have had an unsung hero lately, it has been Travin Thibodeaux, the 6-foot-8 forward who has averaged 9.1 points and 9 rebounds over the last eight games of his rookie season.
“He doesn't get a lot of credit, but he keeps working and has been a bright point of our young guys this year,” said coach Steve Gansey, whose Mad Ants (23-26), made up of mostly rookie and second-year players, finish the season at 7 p.m. today against the Grand Rapids Drive (26-22) at Memorial Coliseum.
Over 32 games with the Mad Ants, Thibodeaux has averaged 6.1 points and 5.8 rebounds, and he has developed into the player who does the little things that often go unnoticed – grabbing rebounds, setting picks and playing physical basketball to open things up for his teammates.
“He's our most physical big other than (Indiana Pacers prospect Alize Johnson). He does all the dirty work,” said Gansey, whose team defeated Wisconsin on Tuesday at the Coliseum and won Thursday at Greensboro, North Carolina.
“Travin sets screens for (guard Edmond Sumner) and gets Ed and a lot of these other guys some really good looks.”
The Mad Ants have had several rookies improve throughout the course of this up-and-down season, including Johnson, Rob Gray, Demetrius Denzel-Dyson and Jared Sam, but Thibodeaux has perhaps shown the most growth. Last season at the University of New Orleans, he averaged 16.3 points and 5.8 rebounds over 26 games.
“It's been real good,” he said. “My coaches and my teammates have been encouraging me. When I miss, they tell me to 'keep going strong.' That gives me confidence and that really helps.”
The Mad Ants have a history of developing good workmanlike players, such as Sadiel Rojas, Trey McKinney Jones and Stephan Hicks, and Thibodeaux could be the next such player who focuses on bringing energy and grit to the court.
“I'm just trying to bring more energy to the team. When I come in, I just want to uplift the team and (get) them more engine,” said Thibodeaux, 23, who was born in Plaquemine, Louisiana
The Mad Ants will give away bobbleheads of their mascot and auction their jerseys to benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters tonight, and a large crowd is expected at the Coliseum for Fan Appreciation Night.
“Travin has really been a bright point for us,” Gansey said. “One of the things early on in the year was him continuing to understand and learn the NBA game. He's come a long way from training camp. He's understanding his role more.”
That role includes being a blue-collar, pick-setting player who is nasty in the paint.
“I embrace that role to the fullest,” Thibodeaux said. “I come from a small college and all we had to do is grind, so I carried that over to the pro level.”