AP NEWS

Shocker as Mad Ants lose Bentil

November 20, 2016

The Mad Ants had big plans for rookie Ben Bentil and those plans looked like they would be good ones, after he had a team-leading 27 points and 10 rebounds in the season-opening 120-99 victory at Greensboro, North Carolina, on Nov. 12.

Well, in the D-League, it’s never good to plan too far ahead because the rosters can change quickly and dramatically.

Bentil has left the Mad Ants to sign a lucrative contract to play in China.

Asked if the team was caught off guard by the move, coach Steve Gansey said tersely, “Yep.”

Bentil, a 6-foot-9 Ghanaian forward, averaged 21.1 points, 7.7 rebounds and a block in 35 games last season as a sophomore at Providence, where he started 57 of 89 games over two years.

A first-team all-Big East player, he was taken by the Boston Celtics in the second round of the NBA Draft (pick No. 51). That was one spot after the Indiana Pacers took Georges Niang of Iowa State, but the Pacers were awfully close to taking Bentil. After the Celtics, overrun by rookies, released Bentil, he was signed by the Pacers on Oct. 24 and promptly released so he could come to Fort Wayne as an affiliate player.

He played only one game before bolting to China and the Mad Ants will play their second game of the season Sunday at Memorial Coliseum against the defending-champion Sioux Falls Skyforce.

“Well he’s got a lucrative deal overseas and there’s an opportunity for him to come back. So, that’s what the plan is – for him to come back. When that is, I’m not 100 percent sure. But that’s the plan,” Gansey said.

To replace Bentil, the Mad Ants activated E. Victor Nickerson, a rookie forward out of Valparaiso. He played at Charlotte from 2011 to 2013 before transferring to the Crusaders, with whom he averaged 4.5 points, 2.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 15.1 minutes over 32 games last season.

The Mad Ants will also have Rakeem Christmas, an all-star with Fort Wayne last season who was sent to them by the Pacers this week.

Christmas is slated to be with Fort Wayne for at least a couple of games.

jcohn@jg.net