Mad Ants ready for long road stretch

Fort Wayne Mad Ants rookie guard Tra-Deon Hollins is working to gradually earn more playing time. (By Blake Sebring of News-Sentinel.com)

February is always the dog days of any athletic season. It’s past the all-star break and the playoffs are too far away to get the adrenaline going, but the games this month can determine playoff position.

And the Mad Ants schedule sure doesn’t help.

Fort Wayne is in the midst of playing four straight and eight out of nine games away from Memorial Coliseum. The Mad Ants finish up by playing five of their final seven games at home, but first, they have to survive the road to get there. Their next road game is Feb. 25 against Iowa.

“When we first saw the schedule and saw that the whole first month we only had one or two away games, we knew the rest of the season would be rough with road games,” veteran guard Trey McKinney-Jones said. “I feel like that’s the way it was last year. I don’t think it really bothers us too much. I don’t think as a team we worry too much about the crowd or the home-court advantage the other team has when we go on the road.”

The Mad Ants are an excellent and NBA G League-best 14-5 at home this season, and they are 6-9 on the road, though they won their three most-recent road games.

“We have to be road warriors this next month here,” coach Steve Gansey said. “Everyone needs to step up. You have to produce and be efficient with your minutes. I don’t care if it’s 15 minutes, 5 minutes or one possession. You have to know what we’re in offensively, you have to know your spots and what we’re doing defensively as well.

“I kind of look at it as their’s good things and bad things from it. Obviously, you are not sleeping in your own bed, but I tell these guys it’s a business trip. We’re all about business. Take care of yourselves, get your rest and we’re here to win games. Guys come together too. On the road, it’s just us and they’re going out to eat a little bit more and that camaraderie is huge on the road. We just have to stick together.”

Two players who may be stepping up are guards Tra-Deon Hollins and Edmond Sumner. With so many road games coming up, meaning everyone is going to be tired and beat up, team depth will be more important than ever this season.

Hollins, a rookie, is known mostly for his defense, but he’s been working hard at the other end of the court.

“I’m learning a lot and the veterans are helping me,” Hollins said. “Whenever my time comes I’m going to be ready. I’m being patient and I trust the coaching staff and everything we have going. Whenever they need me I’m going to be ready to take the opportunity and step forward. I’m trying to be more consistent with my jump shot. I make a few here, miss a lot there, so I’m just trying to put it all together right now. It’s all confidence. You have to keep the same shot, and that’s what I’m working on.”

Sumner is one of the players the Mad Ants are sharing with the Indiana Pacers, but he’s working hard to come back from shoulder surgery. He’s only played in a handful of games and is trying to find his legs, his timing and his shot.

“I haven’t played in a year so I’m just trying to get the feel back and trying to get comfortable,” he said. “It’s a process. I’m trying not to put any pressure on myself to get right back to where I was. I’m trying to get my wind and get my legs back under me first. It’s been kind of hard. I’m trying not to think about it, and just do the best I can.”

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