Isaiah Hicks Needs to Play and Shoot More


North Carolina has five big men on the roster that play a majority of the minutes — Brice Johnson, Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, Joel James and Luke Maye. Of the five, Johnson and Meeks start, Hicks and James back up, and Maye fills in for a handful of minutes here and there.

Johnson and Meeks both put up very good numbers, and are efficient, talented basketball players. This season, Johnson is averaging 16 points and 11.7 boards per game. Meeks is playing just as well, averaging 16 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. This is in a small sample* of three games against three not very good opponents, but either way, Tar Heel fans should expect to see Johnson and Meeks continue to dominate all season long.

There are no problems with starting Johnson and Meeks and continuing to feed them the ball. The numbers say, however, that Isaiah Hicks should be getting more playing time, even if it comes at the expensive of Johnson’s, James’ or Maye’s minutes.

Isaiah Hicks’ numbers don’t look nearly as sexy as the starter’s number through three games; Hicks is averaging “just” 8.7 points and 4.3 boards. But, here’s the thing — the dude has missed two field goals all season. Again, small sample size comes into play. His field goal percentage is an entirely unsustainable 84.6 percent and has come against poor defensive opponents. His field goal percentage will fall with more attempts, but that’s okay. The key here is that Hicks needs to be getting a lot more touches and minutes.

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Just to be clear here, nobody is saying Johnson and Meeks aren’t any good. Both players are getting a lot of touches and being efficient and diligent scorers with them this season. The numbers say, though, that Hicks should be getting just as much playing time as those two starters. Hicks is shooting more efficiently than either starter and isn’t getting as many touches or minutes. That trend needs to change.

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Hicks does not give the Tar Heels as much in terms of passing or defense that either Meeks or Johnson do. Hicks has never been a great shot blocker, averaging only .4 blocks per game last season. He also totalled just 11 assists all of last season. Meeks had 39, as a point of reference.

But Hicks is very good at what he does — get buckets. The numbers from last year also support the point of Isaiah Hick’s ability to flat-out score and score efficiently. He posted a 54.4 effective field goal percentage and finished the season strong, posting an offensive rating of over 112 in five of his final seven games. He’s picked up where he left off last year and has been just about unstoppable through three games. Roy Williams should be giving him more touches and more chances to continue to dominate offensively.

*The small sample size qualifier will apply to every stat in this article, but Carolina is already 10% done with their regular season basketball schedule. If this was an NBA season, the Heels would already have been through around eight games. Take these numbers with a grain of salt, but understand it’s not too early to start looking for trends.