The latest NBA player to join the Mad Ants is Bruno Caboclo, who was sent down by the NBA’s Toronto Raptors on Thursday, and Fort Wayne coach Conner Henry is accustomed to this drill by now.
"They’re good guys first and foremost," Henry said of the NBA players he has coached this season. "When they come into the locker room, they fit in. All the guys that have come down so far have fit nicely."
He’s got to work Caboclo into the lineup to help his development as a player while trying to win tonight’s game in Des Moines, Iowa, and not neglect the other players on the team.
The Mad Ants are one of the deepest teams in the D-League, regularly using 12 players in games.
"When you have the NBA guys down, you have tremendous depth," Henry said. "There’s no real season to play your top eight players a lot of minutes. Why not spread it out? You have more ammunition and younger legs to throw out there and defend. It’s a bonus when that happens."
A native of Osasco, Brazil, Caboclo was the 20th pick in the 2014 NBA draft and has played a total of 15 minutes in three NBA games.
The Mad Ants also have the Washington Wizards’ Glen Rice Jr. on their roster. Previously this season, they’ve had the Atlanta Hawks’ John Jenkins, Mike Muscala and Adreian Payne, plus Russ Smith of the New Orleans Pelicans.
They’ve already eclipsed the number of NBA players they had last season – five – when they went on to win the D-League championship, although they didn’t have any on their roster in the playoffs.
Fort Wayne (8-7) has won three of its past four games heading into tonight’s contest against the Iowa Energy (5-8 after losing Friday to Maine).
Andre Emmett has averaged 15.4 points over the past five games for Fort Wayne, while Rice has averaged 12.6 points in that span.
For the season, Emmett has averaged 17.2 points over 15 games – Jenkins was the only one with a better average, 19.4, over five games – and Rice has a season average of 12.9 points over 13 games. Dahntay Jones has averaged 12.1 points over 11 games.
Fort Wayne has averaged 98.7 points per game – only Canton and Westchester score fewer points – but the Mad Ants’ defense is the best in the league with 94.3 points against per game.
The next week offers good opportunities for fans to see the Mad Ants. The next three games at Memorial Coliseum – Sunday against Austin, Tuesday against Oklahoma City and Thursday against Oklahoma City – are Student Nights.
Those presenting student identification at the box office get 50 percent off their tickets.