Mad Ants Open Tryouts Recap

The Fort Wayne International Airport’s “Take Off to the NBA” Mad Ants’ Open Tryout

The first whistle, the first squeak of a shoe against a gym floor, the first hiss of the net as a ball dropped through the basket – this was the soundtrack to the first ever Fort Wayne International Airport’s “Take Off to the NBA” Mad Ants’ Open Tryout, which was held the weekend of October 13 and 14 in preparation for the team’s inaugural season. More than seventy athletes from around the country traveled to the tryout, held at Indiana Tech’s Schaefer Center, by bus, car, and plane to pursue their dream of becoming a professional basketball player in the NBA.

The weekend began with drills and running, pushing even the most physically fit participants to their limit right off the bat. The eight-hour day, which began at noon, featured just one temporary reprieve when the group adjourned for a lunch break in the middle of the afternoon. The players reconvened after this short rest for another physically demanding round of drills and games. By 8 pm, sweat dripped from every forehead and drenched every jersey as the athletes lined up across the gym floor for the first cut of the weekend.

After Coaches Kent Davison and Jaren Jackson narrowed down the group to forty of the best players, they dismissed the young men – some to a disappointing reality without a much-desired callback and others to a short night of sleep before Sunday’s 9 am start.

The competition heated up the next morning as sharp shooters drained bucket after bucket and skilled defensive players went head to head with nimble-fingered offensive playmakers. By noon, the coaches had reduced the field to just twenty men. After a brief lunch break, the remaining candidates donned Mad Ants practice jerseys and prepared for the final game of the tryout. Coach Davison, Coach Jackson, President and General Manager Jeff Potter, and a host of experienced assistants watched closely as the players put forth their best efforts on the court.

The last step in the tryout process took place after every player had gone home. On Monday, President Jeff Potter and the coaches came together to determine their top five players from the weekend. The decision makers then sent the athletes’ information to the D-League and set in motion a process that could bring one or more of the tryout participants back to Fort Wayne for the team’s training camp in November.

Although open tryouts offered just a quick glimpse of the myriad of talented players who strive to make it into the D-League, Potter was thrilled with the chance to scout such a wealth of undiscovered talent. “I am surprised and thrilled with the level of play we saw over the past two days. Not only did we have quantity, but we had tremendous quality. These young men should be incredibly proud of the way they played and competed.”

The essence of the entire tryout process was epitomized in just one moment at the end of the weekend: when the last buzzer sounded, the players came together in a huddle, stuck in their hands, and ended with a loud “Mad Ants.” This – the first team cheer in franchise history – signaled an end to the open tryout but also ushered in a new beginning for the Mad Ants as the team took another important step toward the opening game of its first season.