The 2014-15 season is almost here and in preparation for that we profile the players. Today we look at sophomore forward Isaiah Hicks.
Isaiah Hicks, F, 6-8, 230 lbs.
Stop me if you've heard this one before: A heralded post player comes to UNC and struggles as a freshman when asked to play out on the wing.
Isaiah Hicks came to Chapel Hill last year as a McDonald's All-American but quickly found himself buried behind an experienced, NBA-caliber veteran in James Michael McAdoo and a player on the rise in Brice Johnson. Roy Williams asked the 6-8 Hicks to slide over to the wing where he struggled to find his groove in making the adjustment to the college game and spent much of the season in Williams' doghouse. Hicks played a sparse 7 minutes per game and was a non-factor for the Heels.
If you're thinking that sounds a lot like John Henson, you might be right. If you're thinking about what happened the next two years when Henson was able to move back to his natural position in the post, you might have reason to be optimistic, if the first two exhibition games are any indication.
With McAdoo moving on to the NBA, the opportunity for Hicks to show his low post skills has arrived, and the sophomore has not disappointed early versus Fayetteville State and Belmont Abbey. Against the Broncos, Hicks tallied 13 points on 6-for-6 shooting to go with five rebounds. On Friday night against the Crusaders, Hicks chipped in 14 points while going 7-8 from the floor. That's 27 points on 93% shooting, and that's pretty efficient. Hicks was also the team's leading scorer in two exhibition games in the Bahamas in September.
Hicks will likely spend the season as UNC's sixth man, the first post sub behind Johnson and Kennedy Meeks. At 6-8 and 230 lbs., Hicks can bang with most post players in the ACC but will need to improve his defense and become a more consistent rebounder. He has shown he can put the ball in the basket against lesser teams but it will be interesting to see how he performs in the low post against Division I talent.
For his part, Roy Williams is expecting Hicks to be more of a contributor this season. Williams suggested Hicks should relax and let his game to come to him. He can't be counted on to be a leading scorer as he has been in four exhibition games, but he should be a key component in a stout three-part post rotation for Carolina this season.