Mad Ants stressing defense as training camp opens
As the Fort Wayne Mad Ants opened training camp Monday night at the ASH Centre, there were 16 players who were dying to show what they could do offensively with the basketball, but instead, coach Steve Gansey focused on defense.
Gansey threw a ton of information, techniques and instructions at his players over the two-hour practice, often stopping play to teach exactly how he wanted players to respond. He wanted to see who was paying attention and trying to use what he was saying.
“We don’t have a lot of time so we have to keep building what we’re trying to do on the defensive end,” the third-year coach said. “There are a lot of things we need to work on early on. You can look at our roster, and we’re not very big, but we have speed and we’re very athletic, so I want these guys flying around. We’re trying to build our communication and the chemistry on the defensive end.”
In fact, Gansey hardly mentioned offense at all, except to say they would talk about that part of the game later. The Mad Ants have only 11 practices before their season opens November 4 at Long Island, and Gansey already knows he has plenty of scorers. That will be the easy part of the game.
“We’ve found that if you can’t defend out of the box, you don’t have a shot, no matter how many points you can score,” General Manager Brian Levy said.
It’s going to be tough enough to make the roster anyway. Alex Poythress and Edmond Sumner are on two-way contracts with the Indiana Pacers so they have the team made. Trey McKinney-Jones is out for at least a month with a shoulder injury but must go on the active roster. That leaves nine spots remaining for 15 players trying to make the team.
Besides the training camp practices, the Mad Ants will join Canton in Grand Rapids on Saturday for preseason scrimmages that will determine a lot on who sticks around.
Levy said he believes the toughest battles will be at the two guard positions where there are three point guards competing for two spots and three solid shooting guards. Walt Lemon Jr., back after playing last year in Europe, might have an advantage because he can play both positions.
“That’s where the battles are,” Levy said. “We have a lot of interesting pieces. I can’t say we won’t move a small forward down to a shooting guard, too.”
But a lot of that will depend on who can defend.
“One of the things we wanted to do improving from last year is be better on the defensive end,” Gansey said. “We’ll get to the offense, didn’t want to talk about it really at all today, but we have to get our defensive principles in first.”
Mad Ants training camp roster
Deonte Burton 6-1
C.J. Fair 6-6
Stephan Hicks 6-6
Tra-Deon Hollins 6-2
Je’Lon Hornbeak 6-3
DeQuan Jones 6-9
Walt Lemon Jr. 6-3
Trey McKinney-Jones 6-5
Ben Moore 6-8
Victor Nickerson 6-8
Alex Poythress 6-7
Jamaal Samuel 6-9
Edmond Sumner 6-5
J.D. Tisdale 6-5
Jarrod Uthoff 6-9
Steve Weingarten 6-8
Adam Woodbury 7-1