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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, October 22, 2017 1:00 am

Ants like top draft pick's defense

Guard Hollins among best in steals in college

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

Tra-Deon Hollins is as good defending as he is scoring, and that's a big reason the Mad Ants made him their first-round pick in Saturday's NBA Gatorade League draft.

A rookie out of Nebraska-Omaha, the 6-foot-2 guard averaged 13.4 points, 6.5 assists and 5.2 rebounds, while also chipping in 3.3 steals a night over 32 games. He was named the Summit League's Defensive Player of the Year in 2016 and 2017 and was first-team all-conference as a senior.

“He was first in the nation in steals as a junior and second in the nation in steals as a senior,” Mad Ants general manager Brian Levy said. “He shares the basketball. He's going to come in and work hard, push our guys. He might be somebody who surprises a lot of people in this league.”

A day after acquiring Deonte Burton from the Northern Arizona Suns for a second-round draft pick, the Mad Ants still had four picks but chose to use only three of them – on Hollins, Steve Weingarten and J.D. Tisdale Jr.

Weingarten, 28, has familiarity with Mad Ants coach Steve Gansey, having played for him with the G-League's Canton Charge when Gansey was the assistant coach in 2014-15. That season, Weingarten, a 6-8 forward, played 21 games and averaged 3.1 points and 1.7 rebounds.

“He plays very hard, extremely hard, at both ends – the offensive end and the defensive end. I'm excited to see Steve again and see him in camp here, where he can fight for a spot,” Gansey said.

Weingarten has also played in the G-League for Los Angeles and Delaware, after finishing his college career at La Salle, averaging 4.7 points and 3.2 rebounds as a senior in 2010-11.

Tisdale, 23, is a rookie out of Rogers State, for which he averaged 15.5 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 29 games last season, when he made the Heartland Conference's all-league second team.

“You can tell he's been really well coached,” Levy said. “He knows where to play and is in the right spots defensively.”

Tisdale got the attention of the Mad Ants through an open tryout in Fort Wayne.

The Mad Ants begin training camp Monday at the ASH Centre. The rest of their roster includes: C.J. Fair, Stephan Hicks, Walt Lemon Jr., Trey McKinney Jones, E. Victor Nickerson, Alex Poythress, Adam Woodbury and Jarrod Uthoff, all of whom have played for them before; while newcomers include Je'Lon Hornbreak, Ben Moore, Jamaal Samuel, DeQuan Jones and Edmond Sumner. Poythress and Sumner, however, are currently with the Indiana Pacers.