Mad Ants coach Joey Meyer has settled back into Fort Wayne, and his first order of business involves inventory.
He's going to see somewhere between 50 and 100 wannabe pro basketball players at open tryouts this weekend, and he'll need to put them into an “in” pile and an “out” pile. The best of the best could be invited to the Mad Ants training camp next month.
Meyer will bring out his mental checklist.
“Does he have D-League skill?” Meyer said Tuesday. “Does he have a good attitude? Does he know the game? We're looking for the whole package.”
The Mad Ants will hold open tryouts Saturday and Sunday at Concordia Theological Seminary's Wambsganss Gymnasium, and players who feel they have the skill can still get in. Early registration of $150 is due by Thursday. Registration at 9 a.m. Saturday will be $200. Forms are available at fortwaynehoops.com.
The Ants' all-time leading scorer, Ron Howard, was discovered during the open tryouts his first year out of Valparaiso University. Another local player, IPFW's DeWitt Scott, earned a spot with the team for a couple of seasons through a similar path.
“In the 10 years I've been in the league, I'll bet you five of those years guys have made my opening-day roster,” Meyer said. “Sometimes you find them. A lot of people come to the tryouts and say, ‘There's not that many good players.' Well, we're not looking to find 50. We're looking for a couple of good players.”
Meyer, who lives in Chicago when it's not basketball season, said he is excited about the Mad Ants' prospects for this season. Four players have been signed already: Howard, Walker Russell Jr., Chris Hunter and Marvin Phillips.
The team came within one win of making the playoffs last season. While the NBA labor dispute will delay or possibly cancel the NBA season, the D-League will open as scheduled. The Mad Ants' first game is Nov. 25 vs. the Sioux Falls Skyforce at Memorial Coliseum.
“What I really liked is that at the end of the last couple years, our guys were really playing to win,” Meyer said. “In the D-League, the hardest thing is to get them to play to win and not worry about stats. We had some stretches early that cost us a playoff spot. I think if we can start the year well and not have lulls, it'll carry us to our first playoffs here.”
Meyer will again have Steve Gansey as his assistant coach. Gansey has been running workouts with Howard, Russell and former Mad Ants player Sean Sonderleiter during the offseason.
“We have good reason to be optimistic about what we have back,” Meyer said.