2007-08: The Inaugural Season
Basketball was coming back to Fort Wayne. This announcement, met with approval from a city looking for revival of Indiana’s homegrown sport, signified the return of basketball to Fort Wayne, an entertainment outlet so absent since the sale of the Zollner Pistons in 1974 and the cessation of the CBA’s Fort Wayne Fury in 2001. Next on the premature timeline for the newly founded Fort Wayne Mad Ants was the announcement that the NBA would pair the Mad Ants with the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers, allowing both teams to assign players in their first two seasons to play in Fort Wayne. In the organization’s first ever “Take Off to the NBA” Mad Ant Open Tryout, more than 70 basketball hopefuls traveled from around the country to be a contribution to the team’s inaugural season. The future”Mr. Mad Ant,” Ron Howard, who was then fresh off his playing career at Valparaiso University, attended those open tryouts to begin his Mad Ants career. Coached by lead man Kent Davison, who spent time as head coach for the Colorado 14ers and assistant coach Jaren Jackson, the duo led the first year Mad Ants to a NBA D-League fourth place spot in the Central Division with a record of 17-32.
Jeremy Richardson was selected second overall in the 2007 D-League Expansion Draft by the Mad Ants. In his time in Fort Wayne, Richardson was selected to the 2008 NBA D-League All-Star Game where he later was named the game’s MVP with his 22 point performance for the Blue Team. Earlier that season, he checked in as a D-League Performer of the Week for the week of December 3rd, where in a two game span, he averaged 35 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists. Richardson became the first Mad Ant to receive an NBA Call-Up; he received 10-day contracts from the Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs, and the Atlanta Hawks.
Earl Calloway received All D-League Honorable Mention through his one season with Fort Wayne; Calloway averaged 19.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.7 assists.
Sammy Mejia, who was drafted by the Detroit Pistons and eventually waived, played with the Mad Ants and was a recipient of the D-League Performer of the Week honors just three weeks after teammate Jeremy Richardson. He ended his career with the Mad Ants, averaging 19.7 points and 8.4 rebounds, to then play with the Greek Basketball League.
2008-09: Early Beginnings
Assistant coach Jaren Jackson, who was off a short coaching stint in Canada, returned for another season with the Mad Ants to serve as the new head coach over assistants Kevin Whitted and Doug Noll. Jackson led the Mad Ants to a 19-31 record, which qualified for a 5th place finish in the Central Division.
After being sidelined by injury, the Mad Ants acquired Chris Hunter out of the University of Michigan. In his first season with the Mad Ants, Hunter found himself as a member of the All D-League Second Team and a selection for the 2009 NBA D-League All-Star game – where he put up 12 points for the Blue Team. In 47 games with the Mad Ants, Hunter averaged 19.3 points and 9.4 rebounds. Before the conclusion of the 2008-09 season, Hunter received a Gatorade Call Up with the New York Knicks.
At the end of the season, second year Mad Ant Walker Russell set a league record for assists in a season with 509. Through that and other success during the season, Russell was awarded to the All D-League Honorable Mention team. Along with teammate Chris Hunter, Russell was named to the 2009 NBA D-League All-Star Game, where he finished with 14 points and 8 assists for the Blue Team. Russell was the third Mad Ant to receive the D-League Performer of the Week honor (for the week of January 20th) and concluded his second bout with Fort Wayne averaging 16.1 points and a league leading 10.8 assists.
2009-10: Creating a Stride
After two full seasons in the D-League completed, the Mad Ants were again under new leadership with head coach Joey Meyer, who had spent several years in Tulsa’s basketball organization, and assistant coaches Mike Sanders and Vitaly Potapenko. While the majority of the season, lasting from late November until the end of February, left the Mad Ants halted at a 13-23 record; a well constructed 9-5 finish concluded the third year at 22-28. The Mad Ants experienced the season’s first and earliest NBA call-up, before any games of the regular season even began with Chris Hunter receiving his chance to play for the Golden State Warriors. Hunter went on to play 60 games with the Warriors that season, where he started nine games and finished the season averaging 4.5 points and 2.8 rebounds.
Ron Howard, who now was in his third year with the Mad Ants, was honored with his first nomination to play in the 2010 NBA D-League All-Star Game. He finished with 6 points and 2 assists for the East.
Rob Kurz, who spent his first season out of the University of Notre Dame with the Golden State Warriors in 2008-09, played 39 games with the Mad Ants during the 2009-10 season. It was through his 17.49 points and 10.13 rebounds per game that Kurz found himself a member of the All D-League Second Team, a member of the NBA D-League All-Star Game (finished with 9 points and 10 rebounds), a Co-Performer of the Week for the week of April 5th with teammate Oliver Lafayette, and a participant in the Three Point Shootout Contest during the D-League All-Star Weekend. By the end of the season, Kurz received a Call-Up with the Chicago Bulls. In April, teammate Lafayette signed with the Boston Celtics where he finished their season.
2010-11: Year of Improvements
In the past three seasons, the organization had gone from a 17-33 first year finish, up to a 24-26 finish. In his second year in Fort Wayne, Joey Meyer led the Mad Ants as head coach after composing a 22-28 finish in his first season with the team. Alongside Meyer, assistant coach Steve Gansey joined the Mad Ants for his first season in Fort Wayne. From the start of November into the start of the New Year, the Mad Ants achieved a 9-4 mark to pace for quick success in the new season. After a seven game skid opened January, the Mad Ants struggled to correct themselves and get back on their winning ways. For the remainder of the schedule until the team’s last game in April, they put together a 7-6 run and ended their fourth season in the league with a win at home against the Sioux Falls Skyforce. Through the 2010-11 season schedule, the Mad Ants were able to pull out the 8-0 season sweep of the Springfield Armor, capping their third place finish in the Eastern Division.
Walker Russell and Oliver Lafayette each received NBA D-League Performer of the Week honors in the weeks of December 5th and December 27th respectively. Lafayette finished his 21 game season with the Mad Ants averaging 16.38 points, while Russell went on to average 17.73 points and 7.9 assists. Russell received his selection to the D-League All-Star Game as a replacement, recording 9 points for the East.
Located just a half hour from Fort Wayne, Huntington North High School standout and Purdue graduate, Chris Kramer, joined the Mad Ants after spending time with the Milwaukee Bucks for training camp. Kramer’s stats on the year held him to an average 13.50 points and 3.86 rebounds in his 42 game season.
2011-12: Hitting a Lull
Entering his third year as head coach of the Mad Ants, Joey Meyer again was assisted by Steve Gansey for the start of the 2011-12 season. After opening up the season with a victory at home over Sioux Falls and their first road win on the season over the Springfield Armor, the undefeated pace would not hold. After dropping all ten games in the month of February, the Mad Ants found themselves under the new leadership of Steve Gansey, who was promoted to head coach, while Christian Laettner, would serve as Gansey’s new assistant. Before March was over, the team sat with a 1-7 record on the month, checking in at 11-33 overall. Despite a 2-1 April finish and ending the season with a win over the Dakota Wizards, the Mad Ants sat in eighth place in the Eastern Division with a 14-36 record.
In March, Walker Russell earned an invitation to the 2012 D-League All-Star Game along with teammate Darnell Lazare. Russell finished with a 9 point and 10 assist performance, while Lazare finished with 13 points and 6 rebounds for the East. Russell received earlier honors as the NBA D-League Performer of the Week for the week of December 5th; he ended his final season with the Mad Ants averaging 16 points and 9.9 assists.
In his rookie season with Fort Wayne, Cameron Jones, out of the University of Northern Arizona, averaged with 14.04 points, which earned him the honor of being named to the All-Rookie First Team.
2012-13: Dawn of a New Era
Under the new leadership of head coach Duane Ticknor, who served previously as an assistant with Sioux Falls, and assistant coach Steve Gansey, the Mad Ants were looking to wipe the 14-36 slate clean. The start of a new season did not immediately fulfill the strong aspirations intended with a 1-8 start to December, but the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013 showed vast improvement through a promising 9-3 run. By the end of March, a four game win streak, highlighted by a 49 point game performance from Tony Mitchell and a 15 rebound showcase from Brandon Wallace against Sioux Falls, pushed the team to a 27-22 record. With a loss to the Tulsa 66ers to end their season, the Mad Ants finished second in the Eastern Division with a 27-24 overall record; this stood as the first winning season the team recorded in their history. The organization was rewarded with their first playoff appearance, set to face the Santa Cruz Warriors. In the first game of the playoff series, the Mad Ants fell at home to the Warriors before eventually dropping the final game on the road to end their run.
Tony Mitchell, in his rookie season out of Alabama, was honored as the D-League’s Rookie of the Year, as a member of the All D-League First Team, and was named to the NBA D-League Showcase Honorable Mention Team. His success at the 2013 NBA D-League All-Star weekend paired him with the Futures squad, but also led him to the 2013 Slam Dunk Champion title. In this season, Mitchell also recorded two D-League Performer of the Week honors for the weeks of January 7th and March 25th; he translated those honors into becoming a D-League Player of the Month for the month of March. He finished the 2012-13 season averaging 21.85 points and 5.9 rebounds.
Ron Howard joined in the successes of the 2012-13 season as the Jason Collier Sportsmanship Award Winner and a member of the All D-League Honorable Mention Team and the D-League All-Showcase Third Team. Howard played in the 2013 NBA D-League All-Star Game and aided 16 points and 5 assists for the Futures.
Luke Harangody led the Mad Ants in the month of January with his D-League Player of the Week honors for the week of January 14th, but also named Player of the Month for January. In that time, Harangody led the team in points and rebounds in three consecutive game and in five overall games for the month, earning him a spot on the D-League Showcase First Team. Receiving honors for the 2012-13 season would also include Sadiel Rojas, who in his second season with Fort Wayne was named to the All-Defensive Third Team.
2013-14: Rise of the Champions
The previous season marked the first successful winning season since the inauguration of the team in 2007, but also the clinching of the first playoff berth in team history. Heading into a new season, Steve Gansey, remained courtside, maintaining his assistant coaching role, while Conner Henry replaced Duane Ticknor (who received a call up from the Memphis Grizzlies as an assistant coach in 2013) as the new Mad Ants head coach. Beginning the February schedule, the Mad Ants gradually began picking up speed, finishing that portion of the season with just five losses and eventually ended their regular season slate at 34-16, good for not only a first place finish in the Eastern Division, but also the D-League’s best record. When the Mad Ants headed into the final week of March, (March 23rd) they defeated the Austin Spurs 119-111 on a Sunday afternoon; little did anyone know that this team would not drop another game the remainder of the 2013-14 season, but instead, went on an undefeated postseason run ending with a two game sweep of the Santa Cruz Warriors for the 2014 D-League Championship Title. That six game undefeated postseason run included sweeps of the Reno Bighorns, the Sioux Falls Skyforce and the Warriors in the championships. The 2013-14 team registered the first division title and championship for Fort Wayne, but also extended honors to Coach Henry as the D-League Coach of the Year and to the Mad Ants president, Jeff Potter, as the D-League Team Executive of the Year.
Ron Howard, who had been with the Mad Ants since 2007, put together his most successful season in Fort Wayne starting with an invitation to the 2014 NBA D-League All-Star game, named Co-Most Valuable Player, became the winner of the Jason Collier Sportsmanship Award, named a member of the NBA D-League Third Team, and was honored on the All D-League First Team. Howard ended the season averaging 20.5 points, which helped him to secure the position of the all-time leading scorer in NBA D-League history.
Tony Mitchell finished his season with the Mad Ants as a member of the All D-League Third Team, sitting right behind teammate Ron Howard with an average of 20.2 points. Mitchell, who is well remembered with his monster playoff dunk, won the D-League Dream Factory Slam Dunk Championship in March.
Trey McKinney-Jones, in his first year out of the University of Miami, reserved his place on the Third Team All-Rookie squad and was named to the NBA D-League Second Team All-Showcase. Sadiel Rojas registered as a member of the All-Defensive Second Team and Tim Ohlbrecht was a member of the All D-League Honorable Mention Team.
2014-15: Duplicating Success
The Mad Ants kicked off the 2014-15 season by raising their banners from a successful undefeated championship run the previous season. With head coach Conner Henry still in control, and the addition of Jaren Jackson as Henry’s new right hand man, the team set out to do one thing – repeat as Champions. Despite a rocky first two months of the season, finishing 8-10 by the start of the New Year, the Mad Ants found their stride going into 2015, winning the first eight games on their January schedule. Heading into March, the team sat with a 14-5 stretch before losing their footing with a 0-5 mark to start March play. The Mad Ants found victory in a vital two game home and home sweep of Sioux Falls, which allowed them to finish the regular season 28-22, good for a third consecutive year with a winning record. With a new playoff system in effect, the Mad Ants finished second in the Central Division; grounds to qualify them for yet another playoff berth and a first round match-up with the Maine Red Claws, a team the Mad Ants finished 1-3 with on the year. While perfection in the playoffs was obtained last year via three 2-0 sweeps, this team was able to sweep past Maine and the Canton Charge en route to returning to the 2015 NBA D-League Championship series against no other than the 2014 D-League Runners-Up, Santa Cruz. Back to back Eastern Conference Championship Titles were made real, but a repeat of the D-League Championship was just out of reach with the Warriors 2-0 sweep to earn them Championship hardware.
Andre Emmett, who was selected by the Mad Ants in the second round of the 2014 NBA D-League Draft, checked in for several honors in his shortened season. Upon being named to the NBA D-League All-Star Futures Team, Emmett was later named the game’s MVP after his 28 point, 4 rebound/steals performance. For the 2014 D-League Showcase, he earned a place on the Honorable Mention Team. He later went on to be named the D-League Performer of the Week for his January average of 28.5 points on 55% shooting. Later that month, Emmett earned the D-League Player of the Month Honors with his 12 starts (10-2), 27.3 points average on 52% shooting and 6.4 rebounds.
Dahntay Jones received his first 10-day contract with the Los Angeles Clippers during the D-League Showcase in January; he received a second 10-day contract before the Clippers signed him the remainder of the year. Jones embarked on the playoff ride with the Clippers as they advanced to the Western Conference Semi-Finals before being ousted by the Houston Rockets in a full seven game slate.
CJ Fair earned recognition with a place on the second team All-Rookie squad courtesy of his second half performance. Fair received the final D-League Performer of the Week honors with his play to help the Mad Ants punch their ticket to the 2015 playoffs.
2015-16: We Are One
Before the ninth season of basketball was set to tip in Fort Wayne, the Indiana Pacers announced in September that they had acquired the Mad Ants, thus making them the 10th team in the NBA D-League to be wholly owned by an NBA franchise. With this acquisition, all nineteen D-League teams would now serve as single affiliates of their NBA franchises. With Conner Henry no longer in command of the team, upon receiving a call-up with the Orlando Magic in July to serve as an assistant coach, Steve Gansey returned to Fort Wayne, after multiple years spent as an assistant coach with the Mad Ants and most recently a bout with the Canton Charge as associate head coach, to assume the head duties in the Summit City. The Mad Ants 2015-16 season opened up with a weekend doubleheader at home as they hosted the newest team to join the D-League, the Raptors 905. In a tight game, returning Mad Ant, Xavier Thames launched a shot at the buzzer to grant the team a victory over their visitors and eventually a 2-0 start to the season. The first two months of the season enlisted a schedule filled with division rivals and strong competition, to which the team finished 10-7 heading into the new year. After claiming their first win of the 2016 calendar, the Mad Ants finished the final three months of the season 8-23 and closed out the year with a dominant victory at home over the Erie BayHawks. Throughout the season, Fort Wayne hosted a variety of talent, as Joe Young, Glenn Robinson III, Rakeem Christmas, and Shayne Whittington all saw time with the Mad Ants while on assignment from the Pacers. Whittington, who made a return after spending time last season with the Mad Ants in their playoff run, and Christmas each contributed to 40 games with the team.
Rakeem Christmas, the Pacers rookie out of Syracuse, was awarded Player of the Week honors for his performance in games played November 30th through December 6th; where he helped lead Fort Wayne to a 3-0 week behind averages 24.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.7 blocks. On Dec. 2, Christmas recorded a double-double with 25 points and 13 rebounds as part of a 98-97 victory to hand the Westchester Knicks their first loss of the season. Christmas would late be selected to represent the Mad Ants in the 2016 NBA D-League All-Star Game in Toronto in February. As a member of the All-Star East Team, Christmas finished the afternoon with 10 points and 8 rebounds as the East defeated the West 128-124.
Walter Lemon Jr. served as the Mad Ants first pick in the 2015 NBA D-League draft coming in the second round. In addition to his teammate, Christmas, Lemon Jr. also represented the Mad Ants in the 2016 NBA D-League All-Star festivities as one of six participants in the D-League Slam Dunk Contest during halftime of the All-Star Game.
CJ Fair returned to the Mad Ants for a second season in Fort Wayne after spending summer league with the Boston Celtics and much of the NBA preseason with the Indiana Pacers. Fair led the way for the Mad Ants in their final game of the season, recording 31 points/5 rebounds off the bench, ending his season with 16.0 ppg and 6.9 rpg.