Hicks a Key off the Bench

The University of Miami plays the 16 ranked North Carolina State Wolfpack tonight at 7:00 PM in a critical game for second place in ACC standings. The game can be seen on ESPNU or listened to on WQAM (560 AM). NC State currently stands in second place in the ACC with a 7-2 record while Miami is in third with a 6-3 record.

This season has been a tumultuous one for the sophomore forward Raymond Hicks. After starting for UM the first two games of the season Hicks suffered a frustrating stretch of four games from December 18-31, in which he played a total of six minutes.

After putting in extra hours of practice with teammates Guillermo Diaz and Robert Hite, Hicks has regained his confidence and accepted a role in which he is the sparkplug off the bench.

Averaging 19 minutes per game the previous four games, Hicks had his best performance of the season at Georgia Tech Saturday scoring 10 points and grabbing nine rebounds.

Not only has Hicks' minutes increased recently, so has his production. Over the same four game stretch, Hicks shot 52-percent from the field, while in the first 18 games he shot 41-percent from the field.

"I come into the game to make plays and bring as much energy as possible," he said. "I am going to do anything I can to bring my team's energy to the next level. I try to be as physical as possible. That is one thing I have to be as the shortest man on the block.

"Coach Haith and all the other guys tell me all the time if you're open; you have the green light to shoot the ball. I know the difference between a good shot and a great shot. They tell me to just make good decisions and play hard."

On January 29 at Florida State Hicks put-back a key basket with less than three-seconds in the game, helping Miami eventually win the game in overtime. For Hicks it was just a matter of being in the right place at the right time for the put-back.

"Coach told me that after I hand the ball off to Guillermo just go to the glass," Hicks said. "I knew I was going to be able to get the second opportunity."

At 6-foot-7 Hicks is undersized for the power forward position, but he makes up for his size with his explosive leaping ability, athleticism, and muscular frame.

Hicks' athleticism will be key on defense against NC State as he will likely be matched up against 6-foot-8 Illian Evtimov, who stretches a defense with his three-point shooting making 44 this year. Hicks only played four minutes in the first game at NC State on December 18.

NC State brings a balanced attack on offense with six players averaging at least 8.9 points-per-game.

The NC State game marks a stretch of four tough games, in which UM will face the top four teams in the ACC, that will prove crucial to Miami's tournament aspirations (NC State, UNC, @BC, @Duke).

"We are really going to have to work hard in these next games," Hicks said. "Everything in this league is tough. With teams like North Carolina and Duke coming up on the schedule, we have to work hard everyday."

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