Senior captains Hicks, Smith keep Warriors grounded
He wasn’t demonstrative. He didn’t say much at all. But whatever came out of Isaiah Hicks’ mouth was deemed worthy of a technical foul.
It was the night of Hicks’ return to a J.F. Webb uniform last season in a frenzied atmosphere at rival Northern Vance. He was playing the first game of his junior season after transferring back to Webb from Body of Christ Academy.
With the Warriors up a point in the second quarter, Hicks snatched the rebound of a missed Tyrek Beverly shot. He landed and went right back up to the rim, throwing down a vicious one-handed slam in traffic.
Hicks was issued a technical for saying something to a Viking player in the lane immediately following the jam.
“They were just talking junk and it got me mad,” said Hicks.
“I asked him what he said,” said Webb coach Leo Brunelli. “And he said, ‘Coach, don’t worry, it will never happen again.’”
Since that night at Northern, Hicks has let his game speak for itself.
“That’s what I’m all about,” said Hicks. “I don’t do all that trash talking. Just let the scoreboard talk.”
The mild-mannered McDonald’s All-American rarely shows emotion on the court, during the game or after it, although he did crack a smile this season at home against Northern following a spectacular windmill jam in transition.
Hicks and fellow senior captain Bryan Smith have developed into team disciplinarians for the Warriors, who face Statesville Saturday in the 3-A state championship game.
Brunelli calls them the best captains he’s ever had as a coach.
“We’re spoiled this year,” he said. “We don’t deal with any of the teenage nonsense. They just won’t allow it to happen in between the lines.”
Hicks is one of the most celebrated high school athletes in the state, and one of the top basketball recruits in the nation. The future North Carolina Tar Heel often hangs around after Webb games to sign autographs.
Smith doesn’t receive the same kind of attention. He’s the team’s sixth man, the garbage man, known for rebounding and defense.
Still, the two seniors share the same goal. The pair keeps lesser experienced teammates in check when in-game verbal sparring becomes a threat.
“Whenever one of our players is taken out of their game by another player, that looks bad on us as a team,” said Smith. “When an individual puts themselves over the team, we have to let them know that they are part of us this team and they are playing for the good of the team overall.”
The good of the team overall also means staying focused on the task at hand, identifying the next goal and achieving it.
Hicks was stone-faced after the Warriors’ Eastern Regional final win over defending state champion Rocky Mount in Fayetteville. He headed right for the handshake line while some of his teammates celebrated on the Crown Coliseum floor.
“I wouldn’t play poker with him,” said Brunelli. “I know inside he’s happy for his teammates, happy for our program, happy for what we’ve done. But outside, you can’t tell it.”
Hicks and Smith were each quick to remind the team after the regional final win that there was still one game left. Smith said they didn’t have to say much.
“We’re obviously happy to go the state championship,” said Smith. “That’s huge. That’s never been done for our school. But everybody knew that there was one game left. It’s not over yet.”
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