The Mad Ants hit the road this weekend still looking for the elusive, hard-to-quantify team chemistry.
Sometime the road is the best place to find it.
“Right now, we've shown vast improvement over the first couple weeks,” Ants coach Duane Ticknor said. “We have some areas we need to concentrate on. Rebounding is just unacceptable right now.
“Once the guys we brought in are in a little better condition, that will help a lot.”
The Ants (2-3) added two players to the roster after the season opened: 6-foot-6 forward Tony Mitchell, a rookie who played at Alabama, and 6-8 forward Brandon Wallace, a veteran who is on his fifth NBA D-League team.
Fort Wayne plays at Springfield tonight and at Maine on Saturday night. The Ants travel to Canton next Wednesday before returning home for three straight games.
Mitchell played at Alabama but was dismissed from the team for conduct detrimental to the team, an incident he later said involved an argument with the coach. He was in the Sacramento Kings training camp and performed well there, Ticknor said.
Mitchell is averaging 9.7 points and 4.3 rebounds in three games with the Ants.
“Tony's a real explosive player and he should be our best defender once he gets in shape,” Ticknor said. “He can guard the 1, 2 and 3, and even a little 4. He needs to be more consistent as a shooter. He's a streaky kid and has always been an attack-the-basket guy.”
Mitchell has been staying after practice to work on his shooting and conditioning, Ticknor said.
Mitchell said he feels comfortable with his new team so far.
“I just have to keep guarding,” he said. “I've got to be able to guard multiple positions and just be ready to go whenever I'm needed.”
Wallace is a player who is capable of averaging 15 points and nine rebounds per game, Ticknor said. He has played limited minutes in two games since joining the Ants.
Wallace's rebounding can be a huge asset.
“But we can't just depend on our big guys to rebound,” Ticknor said. “Our wings have to rebound the ball and they haven't been doing a good job. It's a team thing. Everybody has to do their job.”
Ron Howard (21 ppg), Walker Russell Jr. (17 ppg) and JaJuan Johnson (11.6 ppg) lead the Ants in scoring. Russell averages six assists per game and Johnson 11.2 rebounds per game.
Ticknor says Johnson still has some room for improvement.
“We really don't have a low-post presence,” Ticknor said. “JaJuan is settling outside more than we'd like him to. We have to establish something inside-out.”
Johnson will continue to improve with more time on the court, Ticknor said.