Gansey cautious of selfish play at G League Showcase

December 20, 2018

Mad Ants coach Steve Gansey likes to tell his players to “seize the opportunity,” whether it’s in practice or, particularly, in games.

His players will get some big opportunities to do that today and Saturday at the G League Winter Showcase in Las Vegas, where executives and scouts from every NBA team will be in attendance.

The timing is important since the window for NBA teams to sign players to 10-day contracts opens Jan. 5 and there’s typically a flurry of activity right after the Showcase.

The problem for any G League coach, though, is that Showcase players are notorious for trying too hard to seize their opportunities.

“The Showcase, every team is there and there’s a lot of selfishness that goes on,” said Gansey, whose Mad Ants (8-7) have put together back-to-back victories for the first time since they opened the season 3-1 heading into today’s 8 p.m. game against the Salt Lake City Stars (8-9).

“If we keep playing like we have these last two games, then I think we’ll be all right against Salt Lake and South Bay.”

The Mad Ants face the South Bay Lakers at 3 p.m. Saturday.

The G League boasts that, through its 14 Showcases, more than 50 players have been called to the NBA during or immediately afterward. It’s also not uncommon for NBA teams to send players down to their G League affiliates to have them shown off for potential trades, as the NBA’s Indiana Pacers did with Joe Young or Rakeem Christmas in past years.

No matter how you cut it, the players on the court know how they perform can affect if they are called up soon or if they get an opportunity with an NBA team in the summer. That can make the preparation difficult for a coach such as Gansey, who wants his players sticking to the game plan and trying to win.

“Agents are out there and it’s a glorified Summer League because all the executives and scouts are there, but we’ve just got to continue to play Mad Ants basketball and stick to our principles, offensively and defensively, and just continue to play for each other,” Gansey said.

Ultimately, playing a team game should be more beneficial, Gansey said, than great individualistic shows.

“We’ve got to just continue to play for each other,” Gansey said. “These guys are going to get looked at (in all sorts of ways). What’s their demeanor on the bench? Are they good teammates? Are they helping guys up? That’s all huge for them. Some of these guys will get Summer League invites to be on teams just from the Showcase.”

The Mad Ants expect to have Alize Johnson remain with them for the Vegas trip; the Pacers rookie has averaged 19.3 points, 13.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists with eight double-doubles in 10 G League games this season. Ike Anigbogu (finger) is tentatively expected to play, but the status of Edmond Sumner (hamstring) is unknown.

Stephan Hicks, who is averaging 17 points and 5.8 rebounds, plans to set the tone for the younger Mad Ants by making them see that playing for themselves won’t do anyone any good in Vegas.

“I’ve been in this league quite some time : this is my fourth year : and this will be my fourth time playing in the Showcase and I’m aware of what the experience is like and what to kind of expect,” Hicks said. “I know what I need to bring to the table there and I’ve just got to continue that and show my teammates what they need to do to impress these scouts.”

Note: The Mad Ants are reminding fans their 5 p.m. game Dec. 30 against Greensboro will be at the MTI Center at Trine University in Angola and tickets start at $15. They can be purchased at groupmatics.events/event/dec30th. For information, call 260-469-4667.


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