Tar Heels roll over Seahawks; Hicks seeing increased role

Jan. 01, 2014 @ 12:02 AM

North Carolina coach Roy Williams likened Isaiah Hicks to a colt running around following a win over Northern Kentucky last week.

Hicks didn’t come blazing out of the gate like many anticipated, but the freshman seems to be getting his legs under him.

Hicks earned the team’s defensive player of the game honors with three blocks in the win over Northern Kentucky. Tuesday against UNC Wilmington, the former J.F. Webb standout recorded a career-high seven points while seeing a season-best 17 minutes of action as the No. 19 Tar Heels (10-3) rolled over UNC Wilmington 84-51.

James Michael McAdoo led North Carolina with 23 points and 10 rebounds. The Tar Heels shot 63 percent in the second half on their way to becoming the third program to reach 2,100 wins joining Kentucky and Kansas.

Hicks says he’s getting more comfortable and his coach has been patient with his progression as the 6-foot-8 rookie adds a new position to his repertoire.

“We’re trying to allow him to play on the perimeter and he’s not really a perimeter player,” said Williams. “He might be before it’s over with. Long term, this might be something that’s really good for him.”

Hicks nailed his first 3-point attempt of the season Tuesday on his first touch of the game. He logged five minutes and 22 seconds of action in his first rotation into the game in the first half.

Expect more where that shooting came from. Hicks said he doesn’t pull the trigger from distance much in practice, but often knocks down those jumpers when he does.

“When I do, I make it, so I guess it’s something I need to start doing more so I can just get more comfortable shooting 3s and shots, period,” said Hicks.

Hicks didn’t score again until the waning stages of the game against Buzz Peterson’s Seahawks (6-9), converting a pair of free throws and landing a two-handed slam.

Hicks knocked down both of his field goal attempts Tuesday but has looked passive at times with the ball in his hands this season.

Hicks lives in Chapel Hill with fellow freshmen Nate Britt and Kennedy Meeks and sophomore J.P. Tokoto.

Britt has seen his roommate’s confidence grow.

“He’s getting a whole lot more confidence and I feel like it starts in practice,” Britt said of Hicks. “Coaches have been telling him, ‘Isaiah, if you weren’t here and you were on the playground, what would you do right now?’ And he said, ‘I would have went and dunked it.’ And then Isaiah starts doing that more and more in practice and it’s transitioning into the game.”

Britt has started every game this season at point guard and Meeks earned his first start of the season against UNC Wilmington.

“They’re freshmen too,” said Hicks. “They can get out there and play and so can I. That’s the mindset we have to have.”

Especially entering ACC play, which begins Sunday for North Carolina at Wake Forest.

It’s a major leap forward from Hicks’ days as a star at Webb, where he led the Warriors to a 3-A state title last season. 

“It’s a big thing to take,” said Hicks. “Coming from high school and then you’re playing at the highest level. It’s pretty exciting, but you get nervous. You’re in the ACC, the toughest league probably.”

“The intensity is going to pick up 10 times from all these games we’ve played,” added Hicks. “We just have to get ready and compete more in practice and work harder.”

Work harder. And for Hicks, play like he's home on the playground. Then, more shots might start coming. He's apt to knock them down.

Contact the writer at kholtzman@hendersondispatch.com.