Mad Ants’ Walt Lemon Jr. leading in points and shoes

Fort Wayne Mad Ants guard Walt Lemon Jr. has started a trend this year by wearing mismatched shoes during games. He also leads the team at 23 points per game. (Photo courtesy of Cary Gerber)

Two weeks ago, NBA stars Kyrie Irving and LeBron James created some national interest by wearing mismatched shoes during a game.

But Mad Ants guard Walt Lemon Jr. has been donning different-colored shoes from the first game of the season.

“I’m a fashion-type guy and I like to express myself through clothes and shoes,” the Mad Ants’ leading scorer said. “Two years ago the Mad Ants wore gold and burgundy. I knew I was coming back but I didn’t know they had changed the colors so I bought red shoes at first. I can’t wear the red shoes with blue and yellow jerseys, so when we ordered teams shoes, we bought blue LeBrons.”

The Mad Ants changed their colors last summer to blue and gold to match their NBA affiliate and new owners, the Indiana Pacers.

To break the new blue shoes in, instead of sliding around the court with two shoes that weren’t ready, Lemon would wear a red shoe which was already broken in with a new blue shoe during practice. Then Mad Ants General Manager Brian Levy suggested that Lemon wear mismatched shoes during the games. It could become his signature and help Lemon establish an identity on the court.

“Ever since I did that, I had a good game and I like the way it looks on film,” Lemon said. “I switched it up with another color to always give the guys a surprise now. When I come to the game, I don’t take my game shoes out. I’ll leave guys guessing what I’m going to wear, and they are always like `What you wearing today, what you got for us?'”

During warm-ups, Lemon will wear matches shoes and then put on the game shoes before the opening tip. So far, he’s worn combinations such as red and blue, white and blue, white and gray, blue and gray, white and black and mismatched black shoes. Usually, he sticks with white and blue or white and gray on the road.

Every kid in Memorial Coliseum notices Lemon’s shoes immediately. They’ll all be looking to see what he wears this weekend when the Mad Ants host Windy City an Lakeland on Friday and Saturday.

“You have to have enough confidence in yourself to do it,” Lemon said.

But he’s not superstitious about them.

“They’re just shoes, man. You just gotta play and have fun with it.”

He’s been having a lot of fun this season, averaging 23 points, 6.5 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 2.1 steals, shooting 49 percent from the field. He’s sixth in the G League in scoring and sixth in steals.

Sometimes Lemon will ask long-time girlfriend Tyler Woods what she thinks about his selection, but he really takes pride in his entire wardrobe, and not only on gamedays. He considers himself something of an unofficial team fashion consultant and is always checking out what the coaching staff and other players are wearing, including socks.

What’s even more interesting is that Lemon says he has enough shoes in his closet that he’d never have to buy any more. As if he could stop.

“When I take them off, I’m a neat freak so I have to make sure they have no scuffs, no marks or nothing, and I put them back in the box. They still look new. I have shoes from 2014 and 2015 that still look new.”