Wizards End Year on High Note
As volatile as the rosters are in the D-League, you can't always judge how a good team is by its record.
Take the Dakota Wizards. The standings say the Wizards are the fourth-best team in the rugged Central Division, but they looked like a championship caliber club when they steamrolled the Erie BayHawks 113-89 on Wednesday night.
The additions of Blake Ahearn, who poured in 28 points and Richard Hendrix - who had a D-League season high with 25 rebounds - have helped kick Dakota into overdrive.
"You add two NBA players like Blake and Rich to what we already had, it makes us a pretty dangerous team," Wizards coach Duane Ticknor said.
The Wizards (8-6) have now won seven of their last eight, four of them by 20 points or more.
This was already a good team before I got to it. They have a lot of very good veteran players, guys who have NBA experience, and big-time international experience. Sometimes you just need something else to help boost the level of others' guy play.
Hendrix has fit seamlessly into the mix. His rebounding allows the Wizards to get out and run. And by commanding a double-team in the low post, he has opened it up for Dakota's perimeter shooters. The Wizards were 13 for 22 (59.1 percent) on 3-pointers, led by Ahearn's 5-for-8 and David Bell's 4-for-6.
"He really doesn't help that much," Ahearn joked. "Good Lord, he just eats up those boards. It's a good thing, especially for a team that likes to run, because we can get the ball and go."
The Wizards did just that, surging to a 35-25 lead after one quarter.
Erik Daniels (20 points, 10 rebounds) kept Erie in it for awhile, but he could only do so much.
The Wizards scored the final 11 points of the first half, stretching the lead to 58-41, and were never challenged in the second half.
By intermission Hendrix had already snared 18 rebounds.
"I kind of knew early on that a lot of balls were coming to me, as well as I was going out of my area to grab some," Hendrix said. "I knew had to have about 10 after the first.
"At halftime coach said I had 18," he continued. "I said, Man, I've got the opportunity to get 30 here.'"
Hendrix fell just a bit short of the 28 boards Rod Benson grabbed last year against Sioux Falls, setting both a team and D-League record.
"It's fun to see somebody go after glass like Rod did last year," Ticknor said.
There were a lot of things that were fun for the Wizards on Wednesday. Maurice Baker had 24 points, six rebounds and five assists. Bell chipped in 14 points in just 18 minutes. Will Frisby had 15 points and seven rebounds, and Jawaan McClellan contributed 11 points.
"This is a great group of guys, and we're playing well together," Ahearn said. "We share the ball. We play together. In the long run, that's what people want to see. ... We're starting to get it."
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