Here is a look back at the 2014-15 season for the returning Tar Heels. Today we look at sophomore Isaiah Hicks.
As a freshman, Isaiah Hicks was forced to play some at the three thanks to a glut of interior personnel and not enough wing players. The departure of James Michael McAdoo and the arrival of more wings allowed Hicks to play in his natural position at the four as a sophomore. Hicks was expected to be much improved and for the most part that panned out. He scored 10 points in back-to-back games against UCLA and Florida early in the season but was hit or miss with his production. Hicks went for 12 points on 6-7 shooting in a win over NC State and posted a career high 21 points against Boston College after getting the start. Offensively, Hicks showed a signs of a solid game though he still missed some easy shots or didn't show enough strength in making post moves often leaving the shot short. His 2P% was 54% which is good but probably could be better.
On the defensive end, Hicks struggled with rotations and committed too many fouls. Hicks committed 6.8 fouls per 40 minutes which was easily the worst on the team among players with at least 35% of minutes played. When Hicks was paired with Brice Johnson is was a nightmare for UNC defensively, so much so the defensive efficiency with those lineups probably can't be represented with a real number.
What to expect next season
Since the top four frontcourt players return, the expectation for Hicks should be more of the same just better. Hicks posted an offensive rating of 109.5. Since sophomores in Roy Williams system tend to improve on their personal OE from sophomore to junior season, Hicks should do the same. The biggest improvement Hicks can make is finishing at the rim, especially on post moves. Hicks is also capable of putting the ball on the floor in certain situations and can be a more versatile scorer than Brice Johnson. That only benefits the team since it gives UNC players with different skill sets at the same position.
Defensively, Hicks biggest concern will be learning to play defense without fouling. Adding some strength will certainly help but in the end, Hicks has to be smarter as not to rack up the fouls. With Hicks' level of athleticism there isn't much reason why he can't be a better defender and also a prolific rebounder. UNC's defensive rebounding was not nearly as good as it probably should have been during the past season. That needs to improve and Hicks will certainly need to be part of that along with Johnson, Kennedy Meeks and Joel James.