The Journal Gazette
 
 
Friday, March 09, 2018 1:00 am

Pacers rookie finds his stride with Ants

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

It seemed clear that Ike Anigbogu had turned a corner Feb. 25, when he scored a season-best 19 points. He was moving with confidence, shooting from outside without trepidation and helping the Mad Ants to a decisive 103-89 victory over the Iowa Wolves.

But the rookie center, a second-round pick of the Indiana Pacers, didn't quite see what the hubbub was about after the game at Memorial Coliseum.

“I feel like that's what I've been doing,” he said, “setting screens and rolling hard. Sometimes they close up on it and sometimes it's open. I just take the opportunities they give me.”

Anigbogu has become much more reliable lately. Since the Iowa game, he has made 17 of 34 shots and totaled 43 points, 25 rebounds and nine shot blocks over four games.

It helps, of course, that he hasn't been shuttling between Fort Wayne and Indianapolis, and the Pacers seem poised to leave him with the Mad Ants (25-18), who play the Delaware 87ers (13-31) at 7 p.m. today at the Coliseum.

“I'm just working on my all-around game,” said Anigbogu, 6-foot-10, 262 pounds, “and playing helps with that. Being comfortable on the floor and with all my different actions, being able to switch, that's my biggest focus right now.”

The Mad Ants lost their last three games – all against teams in Texas – yet Fort Wayne remains two games ahead of the Grand Rapids Drive for the Central Division lead.

Without Walt Lemon Jr., who is with the New Orleans Pelicans, it has meant the offense has had to be carried by DeQuan Jones, who is coming off back-to-back 37-point games. But other players, including Anigbogu, who has averaged 8.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.2 assists over 19 G League games, have had to step up their games.

“For a 19-year-old, the best thing he can do is keep playing,” Mad Ants coach Steve Gansey said of Anigbogu. “The more he's been with us, and the more he's gotten into the games, the better he has been.”

Scoring remains a bonus for a young, raw player who seemed more comfortable defensively early in the season. Anigbogu has averaged 1.8 shot blocks for the Mad Ants. He has also appeared in 10 Pacers games.

“We keep preaching to Ike about getting into space, getting to the dunker, those two hashes on the baseline,” Gansey said. “When we have guys like Stephan (Hicks) and (Jones), who are driving, and the bigs collapse, it's an easy dump-off pass for Ike, and he's really grown this year since the first time we had him (on an assignment from the Pacers).”

jcohn@jg.net


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