The Mad Ants are eager to rebound from two quick losses. The first step is to rebound, period.
Ants coach Duane Ticknor looked at the 0-2 start and saw a common, unwelcome theme: The Ants were getting destroyed on the boards. Maine had 27 offensive rebounds and 62 overall in its 117-112 win on Sunday at Memorial Coliseum.
“Our toughness is questionable right now,” Ticknor said. “We just don't have any bulldogs in there that want to battle. Maine's bigs pushed us under the basket. I don't think I've ever coached a team that gave up 27 offensive rebounds. It was almost embarrassing.”
Needless to say, Ticknor expects more as the Ants return to action to play the Canton Charge in an NBA Development League game at 7 tonight at the coliseum.
The Indiana Pacers' assigned players Miles Plumlee and Orlando Johnson have returned to the NBA, but the Ants will have a new face in Tony Mitchell.
Mitchell, a 6-foot-6 small forward out of the University of Alabama, will step into the lineup to provide some more rebounding and offensive punch.
“He's a very versatile player that can play multiple positions,” Ticknor said. “He's known as a defender and he was with the (Sacramento) Kings in training camp. If they wouldn't have had 15 guaranteed contracts, he'd be on their roster.”
Mitchell needs to work on his perimeter game, Ticknor said, but brings some strong athleticism to the team. Mitchell arrived in Fort Wayne before practice on Tuesday.
“He fits our style of play. He runs the floor well,” Ticknor said. “He's aggressive going to the basket. He's a high flyer and he can shore up some things for us.”
Ticknor has been pleased by the quick start of veteran guard Ron Howard, who had 51 points and 16 rebounds in two games while attacking offensively to draw fouls and hitting 26 of 30 free throws.
“Ron Howard has just been dynamite at both ends of the floor, getting out in transition,” Ticknor said.
Howard hopes the team can snare home wins tonight and Friday to even their record before they head out onto the road for four straight games.
Howard suffered a thumb injury and was bothered by that toward the end of last season. He is fully healthy now.
“I worked had all summer in preparation for this season, trying to get better every day,” Howard said. “I'm getting accustomed to my teammates, and now we need to go win some basketball games.”
Two losses don't define a season, but Howard says it's important for the team to play well and get moving in the right direction this week.
“We have 48 games left,” he said. “It's tough to lose your first two, especially at home. We have to work hard to make sure we get some wins, get on the right track and change the mood.”