(Another post from Ryan Ripley. Enjoy! -- Scott)
As kids we learn that ants do not enjoy being under a magnifying glass, but with only one win in the past eight games including a three-game losing streak, that’s exactly where the Fort Wayne Mad Ants found themselves on January 7 -- with a home game against a talented Canton Charge team coming up to boot.
Frequent roster changes and the replacement of head coach Joey Meyer with 26-year-old assistant coach Steve Gansey only intensified the scrutiny. Another thing learned as kids, though, is that while ants might scatter under a magnifying glass, they come back stronger and more determined than ever to get the job done.
During the coach’s address before the Canton game, Coach Gansey stressed that while changes have been happening with the team, the fans can count on the team working hard and embracing unselfish play.
After a slow start in the first half, Mad Ants fought hard and got a much needed 107-98 win. Five Mad Ant players scored in double digits with Darnell Lazare leading the way with 22 points. Jarrid Famous (12 points and 11 rebounds) and Walker Russell Jr. (14 points and 10 assists) both had double doubles while Gilbert Brown showed the ability to be a clutch shooter with key baskets late in the game. This win snapped a three-game losing streak and gave Gansey his first home win as head coach.
Fast forward to the NBA D-League Showcase!
In the Mad Ants first game against Bakersfield, the unselfish message shined through Walker Russell Jr. as he lead the team with 19 points and a D-League season-high 19 assists. Lazare delivered with a double double (18 points and 12 rebounds) and Jarrid Famous had 20 points and 9 rebounds. Sadiel Rojas decided to have the game of his career when he filled in for an injured Ron Howard, too, as he finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and a key three-pointer late in the fourth quarter that helped secure the Mad Ant win, 100-96.
With a two-game winning streak started, the team’s energy level is higher than it’s been all season. Players are talking on the bench -- and on the floor. The game is fun again for the Mad Ants and most importantly, they are playing hard for all 48 minutes and closing their games strongly. Stats do not lie, Coach Gansey has recharged this team and has them playing at a level not previously seen.
On Thursday the Mad Ants have another opportunity to play in front of the Showcase crowd against Tulsa at 3:45 p.m.