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The Journal Gazette

  • Katie Fyfe | The Journal Gazette Kason Harrell sets to shoot at tryouts for the Mad Ants at Turnstone's Plassman Athletic Center on Saturday.

  • Katie Fyfe | The Journal Gazette Mad Ants coach Steve Gansey watches players during tryouts at Plassman Athletic Center at Turnstone on Saturday.

  • Katie Fyfe | The Journal Gazette Wade Guerin dribbles the ball down the court during a scrimmage game during the Fort Wayne Mad Ants tryouts at Plassman Athletic Center at Turnstone on Saturday.

  • Katie Fyfe | The Journal Gazette Filip Serwatka shoots the ball during the Fort Wayne Mad Ants tryouts at Plassman Athletic Center at Turnstone on Saturday.

  • Katie Fyfe | The Journal Gazette Filip Serwatka dribbles the ball down the court during the Fort Wayne Mad Ants tryouts at Plassman Athletic Center at Turnstone on Saturday.

Sunday, September 22, 2019 1:00 am

Hopefuls take court for Mad Ants

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

Kason Harrell spent four years in the Summit City as a key contributor for Purdue Fort Wayne. On Saturday, he returned to the city where he helped the Mastodons to 80 wins, trying to take the next step in his basketball career. 

Harrell was among more than 100 players who took part in the Mad Ants' annual open tryout in the Plassman Athletic Center at Turnstone. Those players went through a series of practice drills before splitting into 12 teams and scrimmaging under the watchful eye of Mad Ants brass, including coach Steve Gansey and general manager Brian Levy.

The tryout at Turnstone was Harrell's second with a G League team in the last week; he had traveled to Boston to work out with the Maine Red Claws.

He didn't get a spot in Maine, so he returned to a familiar city to take another shot. 

“It's very important (for my pro career),” Harrell said of Saturday's tryout. “God blessed me with the chance to play against some really good people and in front of some really important people. All it takes is one coach to like what they see and start talking about you. I've got to just embrace every possession, every moment I'm out here on the floor.”

When the scrimmages began, Harrell played on a team with two other former Division I players – Matt Humphrey of Oregon and Boston College and DeAndre Harris of North Texas. Harrell stood out, rebounding well for a 6-foot-3 guard and pushing the ball up the floor when he got it. He made both 3s he attempted in the first scrimmage, punctuating them with his familiar point skyward after they crashed through the net.

He also had a left-handed layup high off the glass over a much taller defender in transition.

“We got to see (Harrell) four or five times a year over the last couple of years, going to watch PFW games,” Levy said. “It's exciting, I know he can really shoot the ball well. We're excited to see what he can do in this kind of environment and see if he's a guy that makes sense for us moving forward.”

The tryout was open to the public and many players had supporters in the stands as they scrimmaged. There for Harrell was incoming PFW freshman Chase Johnston. Johnston is a sharpshooter from Florida who bonded with Harrell when he made a recruiting visit to PFW. Harrell was instrumental in getting Johnston to commit to the Mastodons and the pair became friends.

“It's great,” Harrell said of Johnston's support. “Me and Chase really connected whenever he first came up to (PFW). He's going to be a great piece for their team this year, a guy that can really shoot it, plays hard and works hard. I'm really excited that he was able to watch this. Hopefully it inspires him to just keep working.”

In a speech to the assembled players before the tryout, Gansey implored them to show off their individual skill sets, rather than try to impress with scoring ability. 

Harrell tried to demonstrate his talent for moving without the ball on offense and how hard he works on defense, in addition to his ability to shoot from distance.

“I'd really love to play for the city (Fort Wayne) again and be in familiar territory,” he said. “I'm really embracing this opportunity.”

dsinn@jg.net