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Poythress all business

February 18, 2017 GMT

Alex Poythress, the Mad Ants’ rookie forward out of Kentucky, certainly has the panache to win the dunk contest today at the D-League All-Star Game in New Orleans.

But he’s handled this season in a business-like fashion – making sure to get the ball into the hoop instead of worrying about style points – so it was quite telling when the subject of a dunk came up after a recent Mad Ants victory.

“He’s going to win the dunk contest,” coach Steve Gansey said, looking in the direction of Poythress. “You showed a little bit tonight.”

Sheepishly, Poythress demurred.

“No, I’m not going to,” he said.

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Gansey argued there was so much potential to make the Memorial Coliseum crowd go wild.

“I thought you were going to put it between your legs on that one where you were really wide open,” he said.

After Poythress responded with a shrug that, maybe, he should have done something picturesque, Gansey said: “No, you should have just dunked it (plainly) like you did.”

Poythress, who will be the Mad Ants’ lone representative in the All-Star Game and in the skills competitions, has been reliable to put the team first this season. He leads the Mad Ants in scoring (18.5 points per game) and rebounding (7.3), adding 1.6 blocks and 1.4 assists per game.

Not bad for a player who wasn’t drafted last season but has paced the Mad Ants’ group of seven rookies, not including Georges Niang, who has split time between Fort Wayne and the parent Indiana Pacers.

“It’s a humbling experience (to be an all-star),” Poythress said. “I couldn’t have done it without all my coaching staff and teammates. They’re the ones that put me in this situation, so kudos to them. I think we should have had a couple more, some guys that should have been all-stars.”

The Mad Ants have a history of good performances at All-Star weekend. Andre Emmett was the All-Star Game MVP in 2015 and Tony Mitchell won the dunk contest in 2013 and 2014.

The All-Star Game at 2:30 p.m. today will air on NBA TV, but the dunk contest will begin before the game and stream live on Facebook with the two finalists competing at halftime.

Snider graduate Reggie Hearn, who plays for the Reno Bighorns, will be in the 3-point contest for a second straight year.

While Poythress was the focal point of the Mad Ants’ offense early – he led them in scoring seven times during their franchise-best 10-3 start – he’s continued to improve.

“Oh, yeah, for sure,” Trey McKinney Jones said. “Just the little things, like the way he slides his feet on defense on ball screens. That’s been a big focal point for him. Obviously, he’s a crazy athlete. He gives 100 percent effort each day. He’s definitely improved and I think it’s mainly the little things that don’t show up on the stat sheets.”

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The Mad Ants (19-13) have lost three in a row for the first time this season, and dropped four of their last six, heading into Wednesday’s game at Westchester, New York, against the Knicks (14-20). The Mad Ants are five games back of Raptors 905 for first place in the Central Division.

jcohn@jg.net