Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Ft. Wayne Welcomes Witt

By Reggie Hayes
The Fort Wayne News-Sentinel
February 2, 2011

Changes are coming to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, and the team hopes they'll help break a monthlong funk.

Ants guard Oliver Lafayette will leave the team to take the injured Allen Iverson's spot on a team in Turkey. In response, the Ants have signed 6-foot-7 rookie swingman Ryan Wittman, son of Indiana University legend Randy Wittman, to add some scoring punch.

“We're struggling, obviously, and I've got to do better here for this team,” said Ants president Jeff Potter. “I don't know what we can do better to give these guys a better platform to succeed. It's my responsibility to put out a winning product. I thought we were close, but ultimately I've got to do a better job helping our coaches and players, and do everything I can to give our fans a winner.”

The Ants (13-16), who have lost 11 of their last 13 games, play Austin at 7 p.m. Thursday at Memorial Coliseum.

Potter confirmed Lafayette's departure Tuesday after speaking with Lafayette's agent. Lafayette averaged 16.4 points and 3.6 assists per game in 21 games.

“It's tough to lose one of the best players we've had here,” Potter said. “I'm happy for him … For us, maybe adding Ryan Wittman will give us a big-time shooter to help spread the court a little more.”

Potter hopes signing Wittman, who had been playing in Italy, will spark the offense. The Ants scored only 12 third-quarter points in a 92-84 loss Monday at Utah.

“I thought Ryan would be a nice piece to what we do and what we need,” Potter said. “He gives us a little more size on the perimeter. … He's smart, and he'll run Joey Meyer's offense well. He reminds me of Ryan Ayers. He has good size, a good shot and he's smart.”

Wittman led Cornell in scoring last season as a senior (17.5 ppg), and was named the Ivy League Player of the Year. His father, Randy, is an assistant coach with the NBA's Washington Wizards.

Potter believes the Ants, who started the season 11-5, can still make a playoff run, if they find a spark to snap out of their slump.

“Defensively, we're not playing very well,” he said. “We have stretches, but we're not consistent. That's why teams like Tulsa and Erie are at the top of the league; they're two of the best defensive teams in the D-League.”

Potter said he has been pleased with the play of big men Darnell Lazare, Anthony Kent and Marvin Phillips, and disagrees with the idea that the season-ending injury to Chris Hunter has had a lingering effect on the team's success. The Ants won five of six games immediately after Hunter went down.

“Frankly, this is a guard-oriented league,” Potter said. “Iowa has only one big man (Courtney Sims) … Bakersfield has been playing wonderfully, and they're all perimeter shooters. You've got to have some good balance and some mobile bigs to guard teams like Iowa, and I think we have that.”

Potter said he considered Lafayette, who finished the season last year with the Boston Celtics, to be the best player in the D-League. But Lafayette struggled with consistency and didn't necessarily mesh well with the talents of fellow guard Walker Russell Jr.

“(Lafayette) would have a great game, like he did in Idaho, and then struggle the next day,” Potter said. “I think it was a tough thing for him going over to play in Serbia, where they didn't want him to shoot. That gets you off your rhythm, and he hasn't really found that again.”

Potter said he still believes the Ants have the players to finish the season as a playoff team.

“We have great fans, and I know it's frustrating,” Potter said. “We felt we were so darn close. We'll keep working and do our best to bring home a winner.”


Anonymous said...

Anyway we can watch Wittman's game tomorrow?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, go to Fort Wayne......