As the 2015-2016 Louisville basketball season comes to a close, Cardinal fans will start turning their attention toward next season and a hope for a run at the National Championship. Damion Lee and Trey Lewis provided not only a spark for this team on the floor but also the glue that held the team together in even the most difficult of times. But last year came and went, just as the two fifth year graduate transfers did and who better to replace them? That would be fifth year graduate transfer Tony Hicks. Hicks may not be the most heralded recruit ever to step foot in the Yum! Center nor may he be the best player ever to play for Pitino, but what Hicks can bring to the table is invaluable. Tony Hicks sat out this current season due to a coaching change but before that played 3 years for the University of Pennsylvania where he averaged 13.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in his final year. Despite these good numbers, what Hicks will bring to the 2016-2017 UofL basketball team won’t just appear on the stat sheet but also in the huddle, locker room, and everywhere else both on and off the basketball court.
Tony Hicks is coming to Louisville being told he will have the option of playing both the point and the 2 guard positions. According to Hicks, the coaches compare him offensively to Terry Rozier with his ability to get shots. Even with his skill set Hicks knows what is most important in his time here “Winning ball games is what’s important in my opinion no matter how it gets done. They also expect some leadership being that I will be a fifth year senior. But honestly, I am so grateful to have this opportunity I’m willing to do whatever is asked of me.” So what is Hicks working on to prepare for the challenge of playing for Coach Pitino? “Well, I always work out twice a day. (I) lift three times a week. But I feel that the biggest thing is staying in playing shape because I am not currently getting up and down the court like every other player is right now. I understand there’s a big difference from being in shape and being in Louisville shape. I want to be ready to go from day 1. In particular they’ve told me just getting my shot a bit quicker, being explosive off pick and rolls, and increasing my range a bit.” From an academic standpoint Hicks is currently taking 4 courses and will graduate May 16th with a degree in sociology.
So why did Tony Hicks choose Louisville? Was it the success of fellow fifth year transfers? “Absolutely, my relationship with Damion helped a ton.” Hicks said “Coach (Pitino) is very understanding that us smaller school guys haven’t had an experience of being at a big time program like Louisville and I could tell he wanted the best year possible for those two. For example, naming them captains and taking them to ACC media day. That’s something that I really appreciated from him knowing that this is a 1 year deal for guys like us.”
Seeing as one of the main reasons Tony Hicks will be attending next year is the influence of his friend Damion Lee, Hicks also was able to provide a little insight into Lee and if there was any sort of regret for attending UofL “Absolutely not. He could not be more at peace with his decision. Coming from small schools this is only something that guys like us could dream of. He continued to know the minute count of how many games he had left because even being at UofL is such a blessing and he wants to take full advantage (of it). He knew how many minutes he had left when I came on my official… Although we have put ourselves in the position to play here, we still haven’t had the experience of playing here and everything that it comes with.” Regarding Tony Hicks and any further possible punishment for UofL? “I am fully committed to the University of Louisville, the basketball program, as well as the city.”
As we transition from this current team to the future of UofL basketball, who excites Tony Hicks about their possibilities next year? Mangok Mathiang. “Simply because I have heard so much about what he does defensively and just pure leadership… He had a lot to do with my decision as well. Both of my visits I got to talk to him because he wasn’t practicing. Talking to him I just saw the same fire I feel I have in terms of being a competitor, he made it very clear that everyone is locked in and winning is the most important thing to this team from top to bottom. And that is something I feel is very important to team success.”
Hicks is expected to arrive in Louisville on May 31st, so what is his expectation for next year? “Well, in my opinion (a) national title is the expectation every year at a school as prestigious as Louisville”.
While we are still wrapping up the 2015-2016 season it is easy to want to look ahead to next year. Damion Lee and Trey Lewis will be missed greatly for their contribution to this team and the city. Trying to replace the pair is a tall task to expect of anyone, but Tony Hicks may be the guy to help fill those big shoes, both on and off the court.
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