The Journal Gazette
 
 
Tuesday, February 23, 2021 1:00 am

Ants like attitude Brimah brings

Injury sidelined center last season

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

Amida Brimah has played three games with the Mad Ants and averaged 10 points, 7.7 rebounds and 4 blocked shots. Good statistics, considering he hadn't played in about 17 months. Great statistics, considering he's helped bring the Mad Ants back to relevancy this G League season.

But coach Tom Hankins talks as much about what Brimah, a 6-foot-11 Ghanaian center, has brought off the court as on it.

“Probably the best thing about him is his demeanor and just his attitude – his attitude about life in general,” Hankins said. “He's just a guy who never has a bad day. He's enjoyable to be around. Him being in the locker room, he just brings out positive energy.”

The Mad Ants have been in every game this season in Orlando, Florida, but still lost five of their first six. Brimah, 27, joined the lineup Thursday – problems with his immigration work visa caused him to miss the first five games – and the Mad Ants (3-5) have won their last two in double overtime against Iowa and Raptors 905.

Fort Wayne is 11/2 games out of the eighth and final playoff spot with seven games remaining.

To beat the Raptors, Brimah's block of Alize Johnson, who was going up from the baseline, in the second overtime Sunday keyed the victory.

It was exactly the type of play the Mad Ants thought they'd be getting last season, but Brimah never got in uniform for them then.

After getting cut by the Indiana Pacers, and before he joined the Mad Ants in the fall of 2019, Brimah tore his ACL preparing for the 2019-20 season. Brimah could still be seen often at Memorial Coliseum, cheering on his would-be teammates from behind the bench.

“I was watching from the bench and just learning how to be a better teammate,” Brimah said. “Learning, watching the game from the outside yet being on the team, I was trying to see a lot and learn more. It was a learning year for me, to be honest.”

Brimah won a national championship with UConn in 2014, was the American Athletic Conference's Defensive Player of the Year in 2015, and won a G League championship with Austin in 2018. Watching from the sidelines wasn't a familiar feeling.

“Just being better from the bench and being supportive of my team,” he said of last season. “It was mostly being positive on the bench and you can learn a lot from being off the court.”

Hankins said he could see Brimah's hunger to compete again, and his positive attitude, when they were at the Pacers' facility last fall working toward a season they weren't sure would happen amid the pandemic.

“He's been ultra-focused on playing again this year,” said Hankins, whose team faces Erie (6-1) at 7 p.m. today. “He's really made a ton of improvement. He really wanted to get better and he made a lot of improvement in his ability to catch the ball and his scoring around the basket.”

In 98 G League games over three seasons, Brimah has averaged 7.8 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.9 blocks and 1 assist. Although the Mad Ants looked undersized early this season, having Brimah paired with 6-7 Devin Robinson has given them an inside presence.

Brimah is ecstatic to be on the court, even if he acknowledged it's going to take time for him to totally shake off the rust.

“I've just been enjoying the moment and taking it one game at a time,” he said. “Just enjoying it and having fun with it.”

jcohn@jg.net

Mad Ants

vs. Erie

When: 7 p.m. today

TV: ESPN+

Records: Mad Ants 3-5; BayHawks 6-1


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