A history of Indiana Pacer draft picks with the Mad Ants

By dvance | June 16, 2022

With the 2022 NBA Draft looming on Thursday, June 23, there is a chance that one or more of the Indiana Pacers’ current three draft choices (Round 1, Pick 6; Round 2, Pick 31; Round 2, Pick 58) could find their way into a Mad Ants uniform during their 2022-2023 rookie season or beyond.

In fact, since the Pacers purchased the Fort Wayne Mad Ants in 2015, and prior, there has been a solid history of NBA Draft picks made by the franchise plying their trade in Fort Wayne on assignment from the parent club. 10 different picks made by the Pacers have eventually made their way into a Mad Ants uniform, usually during their first and/or second seasons in the NBA.

Here is a look back at Pacers draft picks that have suited up as Mad Ants over the past 15 seasons.

Isaiah Jackson of the Fort Wayne Mad Ants shows emotion against the Cleveland Charge on November 17 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

2021 – Isaiah Jackson

Jackson was actually drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers on 2021’s draft night with the 22nd overall pick in the first round. But he was never a Laker so he counts towards this list, acquired in principle on draft night by Indiana. Jackson, as a rookie, appeared in five games with the Mad Ants in 2021-2022, partially as a straight assignment player but also on a bit of a rehab assignment too during a couple of stints. He averaged 15.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game and shot 63.5 percent from the field.

Jackson remains part of the Indiana Pacers.

2020 – Cassius Stanley

As a two-way contracted player, Stanley joined the Mad Ants for the 2021 Single Site Season in Orlando, Florida. Stanley would wow out of the gate with a big dunk against Delaware. The 54th overall pick of the 2020 NBA Draft would play in 12 games of the shortened NBA G League season, averaging 12.7 points per game. Towards the end of the G League’s “bubble,” Stanley would accept an invite to participate in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest on March 6 in Atlanta during All-Star Weekend. Stanley wouldn’t take home the prize in the end, but broke down a barrier as being the first NBA G League player to participate in the event.

Stanley last played for the Motor City Cruise in the NBA G League, with multiple stints during the 2021-22 season with the Detroit Pistons on call ups.

2019 – Goga Bitadze

Bitadze would make several assignment appearances for the Mad Ants during his rookie season after being selected 18th overall in 2019. In six games, he would average 19.2 points and 13.3 rebounds per game, helping the Mad Ants’ playoff push before COVID derailed the 2019-2020 season conclusion. He would return on assignment to the Mad Ants in 2021 for two games in Grand Rapids, averaging 28.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game while shooting 70 percent from the field and 63.6 percent from three point range.

Bitadze remains part of the Indiana Pacers.

2018 – Alize Johnson

Fort Wayne fan favorite Alize Johnson was selected 50th overall in the second round of the 2018 NBA Draft. He would spend 50 games over his first two professional seasons with the Mad Ants, starting with 31 during his rookie year in 2018-19. Johnson averaged 19.2 points and 13.6 rebounds that season, only to follow it up during his second year with 20.3 points and 13 rebounds per game over 19 appearances with the Mad Ants. Johnson has been the most successful Pacer draft pick to put on a Mad Ants jersey so far, recording 37 double doubles in his 50 appearances; that ranks 2nd all-time in Mad Ant double doubles. He ranks 3rd and 5th in single game rebounding records for the franchise with 22 and 21 respectively; he also has two more 20 rebound games as a Mad Ant.

In 2021-22, Johnson moved around a bit in the NBA, last playing with the New Orleans Pelicans.

Cassius Stanley of the Fort Wayne Mad Ants dunks the ball against the Delaware Blue Coats on February 11, 2021 at AdventHealth Arena in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images)

2017 – TJ Leaf

The 18th overall pick in 2017’s NBA Draft, Leaf appeared in three games with Fort Wayne during his rookie season. Leaf averaged 23.3 points and 8.3 rebounds while starting all three games. He also shot 53.8 percent from three point range as a Mad Ant.

Leaf stayed in the NBA through 2021 and last played for China’s Guangzhou Loong Lions.

2017 – Ike Anigbogu

Joining Leaf in the 2017 draft class was Anigbogu, who was selected by the Pacers in the second round, 47th overall, and like Leaf was a product of UCLA. Anigbogu though spent more time as a Mad Ant appearing in 41 games over his first two years as a pro. As a rookie, Anigbogu played 20 games for Fort Wayne, averaging 8.7 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. He played in 21 games for Fort Wayne in 2018-19, averaging 11.1 points and 9.4 rebounds per game.

During the 2022 season, Anigbogu joined the Birmingham Squadron of the NBA G League.

2016 – Georges Niang

Niang was the 50th overall pick of the 2016 NBA Draft and appeared in six games for the Mad Ants, hitting 44.8 percent of his shots. Niang averaged 19 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists as a Mad Ant.

In 2021-22, Niang was part of the rotation for the Philadelphia 76ers.

2015 – Joe Young

The 43rd overall pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, Young spent just five games with Fort Wayne, but did so over two seasons. As a rookie, Young averaged 23.3 points and 1.7 steals per game in three appearances with the Mad Ants while shooting 63.6 percent from three point range. He returned for two more games in his second season, averaging 10.5 points and 4.5 assists per contest.

After several seasons playing in China, Young joined the Birmingham Squadron for the 2021-22 NBA G League season.

Goga Bitadze reacts to a basket scored by Justin Anderson of the Fort Wayne Mad Ants against the Grand Rapids Gold during the second half of an NBA G-League game on December 15, 2021 at the DeltaPlex Arena in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  (Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski/NBAE via Getty Images)

2013 – Solomon Hill

While he has played in almost 500 NBA games, Hill played for the Mad Ants just twice, both in his rookie season after being the 23rd overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. Hill averaged 17 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3 assists per game as a part of the team that would eventually go on to win the NBA D League title later that season.

Hill played with the Atlanta Hawks until a January 2022 trade to the New York Knicks, where he was later waived.

2012 – Miles Plumlee

The 26th overall pick in 2012, Plumlee spent 15 games during his rookie season in Fort Wayne when the team was just an affiliate of the Pacers, among other teams. Playing over 30 minutes per game, Plumlee averaged 11.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game while also blocking 1.9 shots per contest.

Plumlee left the NBA in 2019 and last played in 2020, winning a NBL title with the Perth Wildcats.

2009 – Tyler Hansbrough

2009’s 13th overall pick wasn’t the first Pacers draft pick to play for the Mad Ants. The asterisk next to this entry is that Hansbrough never played for the Mad Ants on assignment from Indiana. Instead, he joined the team for 13 games during the 2016-2017 season as he was trying to work his way back to the NBA. Hansbrough averaged 17.6 points and 12.2 rebounds with eight double doubles during that stint. His 23 rebounds in a March 21, 2017 game against Greensboro stands as the second best rebounding game in Mad Ants history. Hansbrough also has the most rebounds (20) and offensive rebounds (10) in a Mad Ants postseason game.

After leaving the Mad Ants, Hansbrough spent the next four seasons playing in China.