Mad Ants at Erie
Tipoff: 7 p.m. tonight
On the web: NBA.com/dleague
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The tally is up to 10 years and 15 countries for Will Frisby. That's a lot of basketball mileage.
Yet here he is, the first one on the court more than a half-hour before the start of Mad Ants practice, taking shot after shot, cutting, planting, rising up. His goal is to find an edge.
“I've got to outwork the younger guys,” Frisby said. “That'll always be a stamp on me now – I'm getting older. But what I lack in youth, I make up in strength and hard work.”
The grind is paying off. Frisby, 32, is in the midst of his best stretch of the season, statistically, coming off four games in which he has averaged 16 points and eight rebounds per game.
The Mad Ants play tonight at Erie, then Friday at Delaware. They're a half-game out of first in the NBA Development League East Division with 11 games left. The playoffs are around the corner.
And just as much as Frisby works, so does he champion high expectations.
“I'm expecting us to finish up the league in one of the top three positions,” he said. “I'm expecting to finish up the division in first. I call these things out because I believe in our organization, I believe in our team and I believe we have more than enough talent.”
When the D-League gets to March and players begin to realize their chances of being called up to the NBA this year are dwindling, attitude is more than half the battle.
That's where veterans like Frisby come into play. He demonstrates professionalism and purpose.
“Will has always been one of our hardest workers and I think he's been even more focused over the last month,” Mad Ants coach Conner Henry said.
Frisby's intensity on maintaining and increasing playing time rose, Henry said, when the team acquired Brian Butch, who has since gone overseas, and again when it acquired Tim Ohlbrecht.
“I don't think Fris wants to lose his position,” Henry said. “Healthy competition is always good. Fris has worked really hard on his weight. He's down to a pretty good fighting weight this far into the season. He was dinged up early – twisted knee, bad elbow, bad tooth. Overall, I think he's clearer on what he has to do.”
Frisby played college ball at the University of Miami and has played overseas in a variety of countries, including Mexico, France, Germany, Italy and Portugal. His last season in Portugal, his team won a championship and he was named Most Valuable Player of the regular season and playoffs. He was also the league's leading scorer.
Scoring isn't his primary role with the Ants, even though that has picked up.
“Basketball is a team sport and that doesn't just mean the players on the court,” Frisby said. “It means coaches on the bench, players on the bench and the fans and including the media. It all plays a role in how that team is going to perform.
“When it all comes together collectively, you see something magical; you see a Cinderella championship team,” he said. “I feel this year in Fort Wayne we have that.”