by Matthew Brennan, NBA D-League.com
On Saturday night, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants will visit the Iowa Energy on VERSUS, with the action starting at 11 p.m. ET. If you are wondering why you should check out this week's NBA D-League game, here are five good reasons why you should tune in to VERSUS to see some of the NBA D-League's top prospects in HD.
1. A Lottery Pick Hits The Court
Milwaukee Bucks forward Joe Alexander, the 8th pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, was assigned to the Mad Ants on Wednesday. Alexander has not played yet this season due to a hamstring injury, so Saturday's game will be only his second time seeing action in 2008-09. A former All BIG EAST player at West Virginia, Alexander is one of the highest drafted players ever to be assigned to the NBA D-League. The Bucks have chosen not to pick up his option for next year, so Alexander has plenty to prove in order to secure an NBA roster spot for next season. His assignment is one of the most intriuging stories in the NBA D-League right now.
2. The Best Team In The League In Action
The Iowa Energy are the currently the top team in the NBA D-League with a league-best 18-5 record. They are especially dominant at home in Des Moines, compiling an 8-2 record in the friendly confines of Wells Fargo Arena. Since the game is in Des Moines, you might even see some local celebrities in attendance. Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast (and Dancing with the Stars winner) Shawn Johnson, masked metal band Slipknot, and NFL quarterback Kyle Orton all hail from the Des Moines area. Fort Wayne may or may not travel well, but if they bring any famous fans then perhaps football Hall of Famer Rod Woodson, actress Jenna Fischer (Pam from The Office) or soccer star DeMarcus Beasley will be in attendance.
3. Are You A Notre Dame Fan?
Basketball fan, that is. No, Chris Quinn and Troy Murphy will not be playing, but the Mad Ants have no less than three former Notre Dame teammates on their roster. Forwards Rob Kurz and Ryan Ayers, as well as guard Kyle McAlarney, all played for head coach Mike Brey in South Bend. Kurz, who spent all of his rookie season last year in the NBA with Golden State, is headlining the group as one of the NBA D-League's top forwards. He averages 17.8 points and is second in the league with 11.1 rebounds per game. Ayers and McAlarney come off the bench and are both key reserves for the Mad Ants. All three will see plenty of time together on Saturday night. If you didn't think that the Energy had a Fighting Irish connection, guard Pat Carroll's brother Matt, the 2004-05 NBA D-League MVP, played his college basketball in South Bend.
4. Top Point Guards
If you like to see point guards, then Saturday's game will showcase two of the top passers in the NBA D-League. Both are having excellent seasons, but arrived here in different ways. Iowa's Curtis Stinson was a top player in the league last season, and has picked up where he left off in 2009-10. While leading the Energy to an 18-5 record, Stinson has posted two triple-doubles and is leading the league with 9.8 assists per game. The Mad Ants counter with Oliver Lafayette, who was actually a member of the Erie BayHawks when the season started. Picked off the waiver wire by the Mad Ants after being waived, Lafayette has found himself starting in Fort Wayne. This season he is averaging 14.9 points and ranks fourth in the league with 6.8 assists. The matchup between these two top guard prospects should be very interesting to watch on Saturday night.
5. Former NBA Players In Action
As of Thursday, the combined rosters of the Energy and the Mad Ants contain a total of five players with NBA experience. The Energy start former Miami Heat center Earl Barron, and guard Jeff Trepagnier, a former second-round draft pick of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Fort Wayne counter with Kurz and Alexander. Also returning to Iowa for this weekend's game is reigning NBA D-League Most Valuable Player Courtney Sims. Sims, who has not played this season since being cut by Atlanta in training camp, received three GATORADE Call-Ups last season while playing for the Energy.