Hicks Taking the Lead

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Isaiah Hicks's high school to-do list is getting shorter.

Ranked in the National Top 10? Check. Attend invitation-only, elite camps? Check. On track to participate in prestigious national all-star games during his senior year? Check.

And, most importantly, receive an offer from and commit to the school of his dreams? Check.

Still, one thing Hicks desperately covets is missing from his mantle – a North Carolina 3-A State Championship. That's why for three weeks during the heart of AAU season, Hicks skipped out on elite camps and tournaments, opting to stay with his Oxford (N.C.) Webb teammates.

After participating at Elon's team camp last week – which took place at the same time as the prestigious NBPA Top 100 camp -- Webb finished in 5th place at the State Games of North Carolina this past weekend.

"He's concerned about everyone, he's a competitor and he wants to get after it," said Webb head coach Leo Brunelli. "He wants to win everywhere – his high school team and his AAU team. For us, what him participating this summer is going to do, it's going to give us the opportunity to see some things as a team that we need to get better on. Then we have that knowledge in November, instead of getting it in January – that's big."

During the three-day tournament, Hicks helped Webb to a 4-1 record and a fifth place finish. On Saturday, he had 26 points and 12 rebounds in a win over Charlotte Catholic and on Sunday, 15 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks in a loss to North Rowan.

"We're trying to win a championship next year," Hicks said. "Here at the State Games, this is what it's going to be like next year at the playoffs. We might as well get used to it and get some extra practice time together."

Despite a perceived lack of competition on the high school scene, Hicks sees the benefit of both high school camps and the AAU circuit.

"In AAU and skills camps, it's like pretty much the best competition in the country so you can see where you're at," he explained. "Out here, you learn to play with your high school guys and get better for a championship."

In addition to becoming more cohesive on the court, the last month of camps has allowed Hicks to assume a leadership role.

"I'm definitely the leader of our team," he said. "I have to be the one talking on the court, making sure everyone is running the correct plays, getting back on defense – just doing everything."

Added Brunelli: "Leadership is within. You want your best player to be your strongest leader and your hardest worker. We've got that."

Webb will compete in three more camps over the next week. The team will break up for the summer on July 1, as several members play AAU and others prepare for football season.

Hicks will get back on the Adidas tour with Garner Road, but not before heading to the prestigious LeBron James Skills Academy in Las Vegas beginning July 6. When the summer comes to an end, Hicks will have participated in camps or tournaments in Las Vegas, Chicago, Little Rock, Orlando and Los Angeles.

He said the travel and rigors of the summer scene don't really bother him.

"Honestly, it's not that bad," he said. "I just look at it like; you have to get used to anyway. When I get to college it's going to be the same, just worse – I'm not going to have any free time. This is good practice."

Recovering from an ankle injury suffered in May, Hicks hasn't been able to get in the gym for individual work as much as he'd like. When he's been able, he and Brunelli have worked on his perimeter game to help complement his prowess in the paint. Hicks made two three-pointers in Sunday's game.

"(I've been working on) my shot the most," said Hicks. "Just that, my shot, and getting my ankle right and getting back to running."

Hicks said he keeps in regular contact with the UNC coaching staff, including Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams.

"Our relationship has gotten better since I committed," Hicks said of Williams. "We talk about any and everything now. He's such a great coach, he calls and checks on me often."

One thing that hasn't come up in their conversations is the position Williams would like Hicks to play when he arrives at UNC in less than a year.

"Still nothing," Hicks said with a smile. "They haven't said anything."

His personal preference would be to play the "3," citing a love for NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant's game. However, he said he doesn't mind playing in the post.

"Nah, I don't mind playing there," he said with a laugh. "I'll definitely do that."

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