A week into training camp, Mad Ants coach Conner Henry sees the good and the bad.
The bad first: A coach has to make cuts and Henry released two veterans in former Indiana University guard Rod Wilmont and former NBA guard Salim Stoudamire.
“I hate cut day,” Henry said. “I was cut eight times. It's an emotional day and there's some anger and frustration and all that. Everybody's human. I'm hoping those two can take it and move on and figure out what they want to do in the next chapter.”
Henry expects to trim the roster by a couple more players before the Ants' exhibition game against Canton at 7 p.m. Saturday at Saint Francis' Hutzell Center.
“You have to be decisive in what you're doing and why you're cutting,” Henry said. “But at the end of the day, you feel like whoever is being cut doesn't fit into your system or plans. You have to do it and move on.”
So cutting players is painful for all and the least-favorite responsibility for any coach.
But the good side of trimming the roster for Henry is that it will be difficult with so many talented players in camp.
“Honestly, I'm more optimistic now after a few days of practice,” Henry said. “The main reason is just with Ron (Howard), Anthony (Harris), CP (Chris Porter), Chris Hunter, Terrance Thomas – I don't want to forget any of the other veterans – Alfred Aboya, these guys know how to play.”
The veterans have picked up quickly on Henry's system, which is a good sign for the first-year coach.
Henry is willing to take a long look at the younger players. He stopped practice Tuesday and urged them not to be nervous or apprehensive about training camp. The more they relax, the better chance they have to show their skills.
“The young guys are trying so hard, we're trying to give them as many opportunities as we can, repetition-wise, to give them a real shot at making the team,” Henry said.
The veteran players have also been willing to step up and help guide the rookies and younger players, Henry said.
“Everybody comes in every day and they're competing hard and learning and wanting to get better,” Porter said. “That's the upside when you have a bunch of young guys. We vets don't jump down their throats. We try to teach them and show them, 'This is how you do it and how you can do it better.' “
The Ants will offer free admission to their exhibition game at Saint Francis on Saturday. Henry will likely make a few more cuts in the days after that look in game-time situations.
“That'll be a good thing to let us know where we're at,” Porter said. “Instead of beating up on each other, we'll beat up on somebody else. That'll let us know where we stand and what we need to work on and what we have to do to get better.”
The Ants open the regular season Nov. 29 at home against Maine.