Fort Wayne Mad Ants Adapting Pacers Philosophy; Roster Updates

Fort Wayne Mad Ants Practice
Photo: Twitter | @Kenyon19_BR /

FORT WAYNE, Ind. — The Fort Wayne Mad Ants returned to the practice facility this week, and the team’s first order of business is adapting to significant changes for the 2015-16 season.

Back in September, the Indiana Pacers purchased the franchise, which was the final independently owned club in the D-League. Now, from the front office to the court, Fort Wayne is becoming an extension of its parent team.

“Last year we had 13 affiliates,” said Ramon Harris, who appeared in 50 games for the Mad Ants during 2014-15. “They had different play-calls, different ways that they ran the defense, but now everything is structured from top to bottom.”

“Everything is the same,” first-year head coach Steve Gansey added. “We’re going to mirror exactly everything the Pacers are doing.”

That means Fort Wayne is also switching from a deliberate offensive attack to the fast-paced style Indiana is attempting to implement. Like the parent team, though, the Mad Ants will likely encounter growing pains.

In 2014-15, they had the fifth-slowest offensive pace in the D-League, according to The easiest way to address that major change is a roster makeover. While Fort Wayne acquired a few players who fit that mold, the roster currently stands at 19 — seven more than the regular-season maximum when two NBA players are on assignment, like the team has with Shayne Whittington and Rakeem Christmas.

“Nineteen guys is a lot for a training camp, a little more than I’d like,” Gansey said, “but that’s just what happens. Shayne [Whittington] and Rak [Rakeem Christmas] just got assigned, and I’m really excited about that — gettin’ those guys here and working.”

Gansey said the first roster cuts will happen before Saturday’s exhibition contests against the Canton Charge and Grand Rapids Drive at the Detroit Pistons practice facility.

Fort Wayne general manager Brian Levy suggested at least four players will be waived before the preseason game, which is essentially a round-robin tournament in which the teams scrimmage for the equivalent of one half during the regular season.

“I can’t imagine us wanting to go there with more than 14 or 15,” Levy said. “Not everyone is going to play the entirety of the game, but any more than that I don’t think you can get an adequate look at anyone, so we need to get [the roster] down to a manageable number.”

The Mad Ants will open the 2015-16 campaign on Nov. 21 against the Raptors 905, a first-year D-League team. Tipoff is set for 7:30 pm ET at Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.