When anything is in the process of evolving, there are certain things, people, and places that define it. And for those that are involved, they simply hope it’s a positive experience. In recent years, as the NBA’s G-League rapidly expanded its talent pool, teams, and resources, there have been several players who’ve not only benefited from it but are now are the faces of its emergence. One of them just happens to reside in Westchester County, NY.
Isaiah Hicks is one of the most well-known G-League players and for various reasons. First of all, Hicks is a former McDonald’s All American who played his entire collegiate career at the University of North Carolina for the Tar Heels. Secondly, he was a integral part of their championship run in 2017. And lastly, ever since Hicks became a Westchester Knick that same year, he’s averaged 16 points and seven rebounds per game, while improving at a rate, which caught the attention of the NY Knicks organization.
I spoke with the W-Knicks two-way player following their win against the Maine Red Claws, last Wednesday night.
Arden: With one month remaining in the regular season, what are you now liking about this team?
Isaiah: I honestly like how we play to our identify, which is getting stops and playing in transition. In a way, it’s similar to what the NY Knicks are trying to do. Whenever we play to our strengths, which is that, we play very well. Another thing, I’ve liked this season is how we help each other. That’s a big deal to me.
A: Playing for a organization that is so active with its roster management and you being apart of that, what are certain things you learned about yourself and them?
I: Hmm, I’ll use John (Jenkins) as a example. When John was with us, he worked extremely hard and went after it. I would come in and see him work overtime on his game. And now look at him, as John first signed a ten-day deal, before being signed to a better deal. I use him as a example, because that’s what it’s about with this league and team. When you see guys like John and even Kadeem (Allen) get called up and play well at the next level, it makes you work even harder. So it’s really about discovering more of your work ethic.
A: It’s crazy to think about it but you’re already a couple of years into your professional playing career. How has your game evolved?
I: I would start with my three point shooting, to be honest. That’s the easiest thing to point out. Just being able to take that shot and play on the perimeter is a big deal. I’m becoming more comfortable when playing further away from the basket and I will only improve.
A: How does one handle the extra attention given to them by opposing defenses?
I: You have to handle it in a good manner. Realistically speaking, me being one of the guys that a team has to place extra focus on defending, is good because it allows me to play at a level, I wasn’t always at. For the most part, I could and would be the player who is in the game to do a specific thing or two. But this experience, I’m having as one of the main players on offense has been fun and I’m learning more about it, one day at a time.
A: Many of us have heard about the tradition at North Carolina, but only a selected few lived it. What would be your selling point to players interested in becoming a Tar Heel?
I: That it’s one big family. Simple as that. I say this, I’ll give you another example. Although people across the league or even fans would ask or know I play for the Knicks, they still ask me “Where’s your Knicks stuff at? You’re always wearing Carolina gear (laughs).” I love North Carolina and I’m always proud to represent them, wherever I go. I even ask those same people, “you don’t have any school gear you’re proud to wear? (laughs).”
A: One more question, I have to ask you and I’ve always wanted to ask it: Is the disdain for Duke really that deep?
I: For sure! When I was in school, we really took those games against Duke as if we were going to war, nothing more, nothing less. Even though it’s not at the same level for me, since I’m not playing, it’s still very close as I’m rooting for UNC (laughs). But when you’re playing in those games, you truly feel the weight from everybody involved and you have to bring it. In my honest opinion, North Carolina vs. Duke is one of the best sports rivalries of all time.