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  • Photos by Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
    The Mad Ants traded for guard Marquis Teague to gain his veteran leadership after Julyan Stone left the team to play in Europe. Teague, 24, has played for the Bulls and Nets as well as in Russia and Israel.

  • Teague is averaging 13.4 points and 5.4 assists in seven games with the Mad Ants.
March 21, 2017 1:03 AM

Mad Ants counting on Teague's leadership

Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette

Marquis Teague played guard at the University of Kentucky, which has mastered the “One and Done” era of college basketball, finding success using freshmen who then bolt for the professional ranks. So he was unfazed by the situation that brought him late in the regular season to a Mad Ants team that has a whopping seven rookies yet aspirations of winning a championship.

“Me and him come from Kentucky where it’s all freshmen,” Teague said, pointing at Alex Poythress, a rookie All-Star with Fort Wayne. “We’re used to that. It’s just playing basketball.”

The Mad Ants (26-19), who have five game remaining in the regular season, could still catch Canton (28-18) for the third seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. But they need to at least hold off Delaware (23-21) for the fourth and final spot, though they claim disinterest in watching the standings.

“We’re not worrying about that. We’re just taking it one game at a time,” said Poythress, whose Mad Ants are coming off a 110-88 loss Sunday to Austin at Memorial Coliseum, where they will play host to Greensboro at 7 p.m. today.

Teague, 24, was traded from Oklahoma City to the Mad Ants on March 2, giving them a needed veteran point guard in the wake of Julyan Stone leaving to play in Europe.

“Marquis fits what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to play quick, make quick decisions, attack it, pass it and shoot it,” Mad Ants coach Steve Gansey said. “He can handle (the ball). He’s really good at the pick-and-roll. He really helped us (in the recent) West Coast trip. He’s really buying in. He’s a good guy. It’s easy when you’ve got good humans on your team, who just do whatever you ask.”

Teague, who has 96 games of NBA experience with Chicago and Brooklyn, has appeared in seven games with Fort Wayne and averaged 13.4 points, 5.4 assists, 2 rebounds and 25.9 minutes, all off the bench as he plays behind rookie Jordan Loyd.

“It’s been fun being around a good group of guys, playing hard and playing together, just trying to win some ballgames,” said Teague, a first-round draft pick of the Bulls in 2012.

His brother Jeff plays for the Indiana Pacers, who own and operate the Mad Ants.

The Mad Ants’ rookies include Ben Bentil, Nick Zeisloft, Adam Woodbury, E. Victor Nickerson and Chris Fowler. They’ve dealt with myriad lineup changes, such as Bentil going to the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks for a spell, Jarrod Uthoff being with the Mavericks right now, and the Pacers sending Georges Niang, Rakeem Christmas and Joe Young to Fort Wayne at times.

“There are a lot of young guys, but they play maturely and they handle situations like a pro,” Teague said. “We’re getting better at the end of stretches in the game, at the end of close games, and we’ve been coming out on top by making the right plays and getting it to the right people.”

Teague is accustomed to joining teams on the fly. He was traded from the Bulls to the Nets midway through the 2013-14 season and has played in Israel and Russia. So he shrugged off the difficulty of replacing Stone.

“It’s easy to pick things up, especially at this level and when you’re with a good group of guys who know what they’re doing on the floor. They’re helping me a lot,” he said. “I want to make it easy for them. Things were going well before I got here. I just wanted to bring some leadership, help control the games, and help get guys to play at high levels.”

The philosophy, just as it was at Kentucky, is that talented, hard-working players can succeed regardless of age.

“Each player, if you’re out there, you’re expected to step up,” Poythress said. “And that’s what we’re doing.”

jcohn@jg.net