Mad Ants suspend Hornbeak for drugs
Je’lon Hornbeak’s role with the Mad Ants was becoming increasingly important in the wake of Tra-Deon Hollins’ dismissal.
But Hornbeak was suspended five games Tuesday by the G League for violation of its anti-drug program, a punishment that will begin by missing the 7 p.m. game today against the Eastern Conference-leading Lakeland Magic in Lakeland, Florida.
“We have been made aware that Je’lon Hornbeak has been suspended by the G League. We are handling this as an internal matter,” read a statement from the Indiana Pacers, who own and operate the Mad Ants.
Deciding to stick with Hornbeak might represent a change in philosophy from the organization after it waived Hollins, who was second in the league in assists (8.4) and steals (2.6) per game, on Feb. 6.
The Mad Ants never discussed the release of Hollins, but multiple sources told The Journal Gazette it was for failed marijuana tests. Based on the verbiage of the collective bargaining agreement, Hornbeak’s five-game suspension aligns with marijuana violations.
Hornbeak’s agent, Jeff Potter, who was president of the Mad Ants before they were purchased by the Pacers and spent one season working for them, declined to be interviewed.
Hornbeak and Hollins are second-year players.
Hornbeak, a guard, has played in 19 games and averaged 4.2 points, 1.5 assists and 14.4 minutes this season. Coach Steve Gansey said last week he was arguably the team’s best off-the-ball defender.
The Mad Ants (18-17) have lost back-to-back games heading into their game against Lakeland (24-12), which is on a four-game winning streak.
Part of the issue for Fort Wayne has been solving its struggles at the defensive end in the wake of losing Hollins and center Ike Anigbogu, who was released by the Pacers on Thursday to facilitate a trade at the NBA level.
“We’re a different team now,” Gansey said. “Guys that have been working, they’ve got to continue to work. Now, they’re getting an opportunity to play and get minutes. I’m still messing around with the rotations and minutes and that’s got to be cleaned up, too.”
Anigbogu was averaging 11.1 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.9 shot blocks and 27.2 minutes. Gansey said the protection in the paint will have to fall more now to Alize Johnson, Omari Johnson and Travin Thibodeaux.
“We’re going to be going against some big guys,” Gansey said. “Ike’s presence, we definitely miss his ability to block shots. We’re not the longest team. But we’ve got to use our advantage on the other end and get after it a little bit more with our quickness.”
As for the missing guards, Rob Gray, Stephan Hicks, Ike Nwamu and Demetrius Denzel-Dyson will have to pick up the slack.
“With our personnel, we’ve got to kind of change it up defensively, Hicks said. “Ike (Anigbogu) is a rim protector. Tra gets steals in games a lot. So we’ve got to use the guys we have and tend toward that.”
Note: Edmond Sumner, who has been signed by the Pacers to a standard contract, was named to the midseason All-G League team for the Eastern Conference. Former Mad Ants also making the squad: Walt Lemon Jr. (Windy City), Jordan Loyd (Raptors 905) and Bruno Caboclo (Rio Grande Valley).