There’s a bond between Howard, other former Mad Ants players and the organization that transcends the usual nomadic minor-league basketball life.
“That’s what so unique about what (former owners) Jeff (Potter) and John Zeglis started here – that family atmosphere,” Howard said. “We wanted to be around, and come back and things like that. The relationship I had with Fort Wayne kept me here and everything grew from there. The (Indiana) Pacers are picking it up and taking it further. I’m here to help continue that.”
Howard came to the Mad Ants to try out during the team’s inaugural season in 2007-08 and has been in Fort Wayne for the nearly a decade. He’ll always be best remembered for helping lead the Mad Ants to their first NBA Development League title.
Howard and his wife, Reesha, decided to raise their family here. They have three children. They run the GameDay Sports Camp for children, which just completed its fifth summer.
The Mad Ants Basketball Academy is the franchise’s first summer camp, although the organization has presented clinics throughout the basketball season each year.
“Ron was a big part of wanting to get it started,” Mad Ants corporate partnership manager Kevin Bloom said. “We appreciate him putting his name on it and being a part of it. He’s been a great figure for the Mad Ants in the Fort Wayne community. It’s great to have him on board and having former players come out to do it.”
In addition to former Mad Ants players, coaches and front office staff, some players from Indiana Tech and the University of Saint Francis are also helping with the camp.
The number of former players “tells you a lot about the Mad Ants organization, compared to any other D-League team,” Mad Ants coach Steve Gansey said.
The camp, which has a registration of about 70 young players, includes defensive drills, shooting stations, skill stations, fitness testing, contests (for shooting, dribbling, etc.) and 3-on-3 competition. It runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. all week, with lunch provided in the $250 cost.
“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” Howard said. “With my sports camp, it was a lot to juggle both, but it all came together this summer. It’s cool to come here and see kids of different levels of talent and help them to move on. I try to help them do a lot more things than I was ever able to do with this game.”
Howard played for the Mad Ants through their championship season of 2013-14, and is the team's all-time leading scorer. He went on to play overseas in subsequent seasons, most recently in South Korea.
South Korea is a beautiful country, Howard said, and he was able to take his family with him for the basketball season.
“It makes it easy to home school our children, so we can move around,” Howard said. “They got to see more (of South Korea) than I did because I was practicing and playing games. Really good food, good people. It was a good experience.
Howard, a Chicago native, doesn’t know where he’ll play this next season, but his attachment to Fort Wayne never goes away.
“And it never will,” he said. “No matter where I go to work, I’ll always do whatever I can to help make this city as great as it is.”