The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, January 12, 2021 1:00 am

Several players returning to Ants

Team drafts ex-Raptors forward, sets roster for bubble

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

They'll spend this truncated season almost 1,100 miles from Memorial Coliseum, but the Mad Ants' roster should have a somewhat familiar feel.

Naz Mitrou-Long, Daxter Miles Jr., JaKeenan Gant, Brian Bowen II and Amida Brimah, who were all with the Mad Ants last season, are on the roster unveiled Monday.

Oshae Brissett and Quincy McKnight, selected in G League draft earlier in the day, bolstered the Mad Ants' stable of 12 players.

“This will be such an awesome experience for these players, who wouldn't have otherwise played for just such an extended length of time – March of last year to potentially next (NBA) Summer League, whenever that is. To get them on the court, get them game reps, is I think by far the most important part of this,” said general manager Brian Levy, whose team will begin a 15-game season around Feb. 8.

The Mad Ants are among 18 teams who will play in Orlando, Florida, though 11 teams have opted out. The top eight will qualify for a single-elimination playoff.

“The hardest thing to do is try to get your team to play together, to get them to sacrifice a little bit of their game for the good of the team,” new Mad Ants coach Tom Hankins said. “I think that's one of the biggest battles going in, as a coach, trying to sell that. But at the same time, you want to convince the guys that you're there and trying to help them advance (in their careers).”

Mitrou-Long, 27, a guard, averaged 13.7 points, 6.1 assists and 5.9 rebounds in 14 games with Fort Wayne last season. He also played five games with the Indiana Pacers, including a game of 12 points, three assists and three rebounds in defeating Brooklyn.

Miles, 26, a guard, averaged 14.4 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2 assists in 21 games with Fort Wayne.

Gant, 24, a forward, averaged 8 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 29 games with the Mad Ants, and he's spent time this season playing in South Korea.

Brimah, 26, a center, was supposed to be a key cog of last season's team before tearing his ACL in October 2019, though he remained visible at the Coliseum.

“He's been cleared to play and we're excited to get him back,” Levy said. “It's been over a year in the making, trying to get him on the court for the Mad Ants. He led the G League in blocks two years ago (with Austin), so we're expecting a nice defensive presence.”

The Mad Ants had two second-round picks in the draft and selected Brissett, a 6-foot-8 forward, and McKnight, a 6-4 guard.

Brissett, 22, was a rookie last season out of Syracuse and played on a two-way contract with the Toronto Raptors. In 19 NBA games, he averaged 2 points, 1.4 rebounds and 7.1 minutes. With the G League's Raptors 905, he averaged 16 points and 7.1 rebounds.

The Mad Ants are set to run the systems of new Pacers coach Nate Bjorkgren, who was an assistant last season with the NBA's Raptors, so Brissett should already be familiar with the terminology and playbook.

“We liked him already from a size, athleticism and versatility standpoint,” Levy said. “Obviously, he's a guy who had been on a two-way contract (last season) and played in the NBA a little bit. It was great experience for him and he's going to fit really nicely with our athletic up-tempo, the versatile lineup we've got going.”

McKnight, 25, is a rookie out of Seton Hall. He averaged 11.9 points, 5.4 assists and 3.3 rebounds over 30 games last season.

The Mad Ants expect to have two Pacers on two-way contracts – Bowen and Cassius Stanley. The roster is filled out by Rayshaun Hammonds, Josh Gray and Devin Robinson, three players who were in camp with the Pacers, and Anthony Lawrence II.

Lawrence, the top pick in the 2019 G League draft, is a 24-year-old forward who averaged 9 points and 4 rebounds for Northern Arizona last season.

Mad Ants' roster

Daxter Miles Jr., guard

Cassius Stanley, guard

Naz Mitrou-Long, guard

Quincy McKnight, guard

Josh Gray, guard

JaKeenan Gant, forward

Brian Bowen II, forward

Oshae Brissett, forward

Rayshaun Hammonds, forward 

Devin Robinson, forward

Anthony Lawrence II, forward

Amida Brimah, center

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