The Journal Gazette
Saturday, January 09, 2021 1:00 am

G League going to Disney World to play season

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

The Mad Ants will play this season, just not in Fort Wayne.

The NBA formally announced Friday it will hold its entire G League season at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, and the Mad Ants will begin a 15-game regular season in February.

The Athletic previously reported Feb. 8 would be the start of games.

“We are excited to participate in the 2020-21 season in whatever shape it takes. We will share more information, including an update on the head coach, in the near future,” Mad Ants president Tim Bawmann said in a news release.

The Indiana Pacers, who own and operate the Mad Ants, declined to offer further comment.

Previous Mad Ants coach, Steve Gansey, didn't have his contract renewed after it expired Oct. 31.

The roster is unknown but likely to include the Pacers playing under two-way contracts: Brian Bowen II and Cassius Stanley. Bowen averaged 16.2 points and 7.8 rebounds over 29 games last season with Fort Wayne, while also playing six games with the Pacers. Stanley was a second-round draft pick this year out of Duke.

A G League draft is Monday, per media reports.

“We worked closely with our teams, the basketball players' union, and public health experts to develop a structure that allows our teams to gather at a single site and safely play,” G League president Shareef Abdur-Rahim said. “We are thrilled to get back to basketball and to fulfill our mission as a critical resource for the NBA in developing players, coaches, referees, athletic trainers and front-office staff.”

Disney World Resort hosted the NBA's restarted 2019-20 season and the Los Angeles Lakers won the title.

“Our cast members are eager to work with the NBA family again and welcome in the next round of talented basketball players to compete at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex,” said Faron Kelley, vice president of Disney Sports. “Most importantly, Disney and the NBA G League will continue our shared focus on the necessary safety protocols for the well-being of the players, coaches, staff and everyone supporting this event.”

Eighteen teams will compete, including the new G League Ignite, which is aimed at developing NBA draft-eligible players. Fort Wayne-native Reggie Hearn is one of the veteran players on the roster that includes highly regarded prospects fresh out of high school.

The other teams competing include Agua Caliente, Austin, Canton, Delaware, Erie, Greensboro, Iowa, Lakeland, Long Island, Memphis, Oklahoma City, Raptors 905, Rio Grande Valley, Salt Lake City, Santa Cruz and Westchester.

Opting out were College Park, Maine, Windy City, Texas, Grand Rapids, South Bay, Sioux Falls, Wisconsin, Northern Arizona, Stockton and Capital City.

The G League will hold an eight-team single-elimination playoff.

The Mad Ants ranked 10th among 28 teams in average attendance last season with 2,416 fans per game, including a game in Las Vegas at the Winter Showcase. Their lease with Memorial Coliseum expires this summer.

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