Shooting guard Gabe York has had success in the G League – he averaged 16.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists over 85 games between 2016 and 2019 – and he's poised to make the most of his latest chance to shine in it. Feeling fortunate to have safely gotten out of the Middle East, where he played last season, he's all about making the most of opportunities.
The Mad Ants' first-round pick (third overall) in the Oct. 23 draft is one of the big names for a team that opens its 15th season at 7 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Coliseum against the Windy City Bulls.
“It was kind of surreal, how fast (getting drafted) happened,” said York, who had no idea where he'd land until newly promoted general manager Chris Taylor phoned him after the selection was made. “I ended up going on Instagram and had about 200 or 300 (new) followers in the next 5 minutes.
“You know, a lot of people had really forgotten about who I was and what I do, so I think just people seeing my name pop up again in the G League kind of refreshed people's memories of what I was back in the day. So I'm just trying to bring that back and have a good start to this, this upcoming year.”
For the 6-foot-3 York, this represents a new opportunity to make it to the NBA, but it's fortuitous for other reasons. York was playing last season in Israel for Hapoel Tel Aviv, mulling a return to North America and becoming increasingly uneasy about the unrest stemming from the conflict with Palestine. He left the region at midseason, so he could begin training for a return to the G League, and three weeks later bombings started. The area that he'd been living in was targeted and, had he stayed, he would have evacuated to Cyprus.
“It was definitely about counting your blessings and understanding that, you know, not every day is a guarantee,” said York, thankful he left Israel when he did. “When you wake up, that is a blessing in and of itself. So just trying to take every day not for granted, and work, and get to that goal that I end up wanting – which is ultimately the NBA.”
York kept in touch with his former teammates from Hapoel Tel Aviv, some of whom spent days in shelters, and tried to keep them positive.
“I kept in communication with that team, even though it didn't work out between us, I kept in communication with all those guys because ultimately it's bigger than basketball,” said York, who won the G League's sportsmanship award in 2019. “I'm just glad there weren't any casualties in that area. But I know some of the domestic guys over there had had some family that have passed away during that whole (conflict), so it definitely hit close to home for them.”
York, 28, played at the University of Arizona from 2012 to 2016. He's played in the G League for Erie and Lakeland, and he's played in Italy, Germany and Greece.
The Mad Ants have a bevy of guards – Daxter Miles Jr., Justin Anderson, Nate Hinton and Keifer Sykes – and that doesn't include the guards on two-way Pacers contracts, Duane Washington Jr. and DeJon Jarreau. So York it going to have to bring his “A” game to get playing time.
The Mad Ants were 6-9 last season, which was played entirely in Orlando, Florida, and missed the tournament in Tom Hankins' first season as coach. The Mad Ants are playing only 15 of their 24 home games at the Coliseum, including one at 5 p.m. Sunday against Windy City, with the rest at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
There hasn't been a pro basketball game in Fort Wayne since March 2020 because of the pandemic.
“There will hopefully be a lot of loud, screaming people, fans, who are all about the Mad Ants and the Pacers as well,” York said. “I'm just looking forward to having that energy and that adrenaline going again with fans screaming for you and then against you as well. I think that's always a good time, when you can knock down five, six, seven shots and you get people booing you and stuff, that's always been my favorite.
“So, definitely looking forward to just having people in the gym and you're not just hearing shoes squeaking and hearing yourself talk.”
3 storylines to watch
Future of team: The Mad Ants say they're committed to Fort Wayne long term, but that's becoming less and less believable. Nine games have been moved to Indianapolis. There are stretches of five and seven weeks without games at the Coliseum. And the team wasn't selling single-game tickets for the opener until Wednesday. Enjoy it while it lasts?
Small ball: The Mad Ants have only five players taller than 6-foot-5, but they should play up-tempo, exciting basketball. And the players and coaches, who haven't had many opportunities to compete in front of fans since March 2020, are excited to get back in front of crowds. "Just the energy that fans bring, you know, the smell of popcorn, just all the stuff is associated with being in an arena with people, that'll be great," coach Tom Hankins said.
Confusing format: Good luck following the Mad Ants in the standings. The first 14 games will be trying to qualify out of a pod system for a new Showcase Cup tournament at Las Vegas, then the traditional regular season begins Dec. 27 with a 0-0 record and the G League returning to divisions. A postseason format hasn't been announced yet.
Games at Coliseum
Saturday: Windy City, 7 p.m.
Sunday: Windy City, 5 p.m.
Dec. 10: Iowa, 7 p.m.
Dec. 11: Iowa, 7 p.m.
Jan. 1: Grand Rapids, 3 p.m.
Jan. 2: Greensboro, 5 p.m.
Jan. 6: Raptors 905, 7 p.m.
Jan. 8: Raptors 905, 1 p.m.
Jan. 15: Westchester, 7 p.m.
March 4: Lakeland, 7 p.m.
March 6: Windy City, 5 p.m.
March 12: Cleveland, 7 p.m.
March 20: Long Island, 5 p.m.
March 24: Motor City, 11 a.m.
March 25: Motor City, 7 p.m.
Justin Anderson, guard, 6-6
Bennie Boatwright, forward, 6-10
Jabari Craig, forward, 6-10
Stephen Domingo, forward, 6-7
Nate Hinton, guard, 6-5
DeJon Jarreau, guard, 6-5*
Daxter Miles Jr., guard, 6-3
Keifer Sykes, guard, 6-0
Terry Taylor, forward, 6-5
Will Vorhees, forward, 6-8
Duane Washington Jr., guard, 6-2*
Gabe York, guard, 6-3
*-on two-way Pacers contract