UNC Alumni in the NBA: Isaiah Hicks off to hot start in G-League

GLENDALE, AZ - MARCH 30: Isaiah Hicks
GLENDALE, AZ - MARCH 30: Isaiah Hicks /

Former UNC big man off to hot start in NBA G-League

18 months ago, Isaiah Hicks was in Phoenix, Arizona at the site of the 2017 NCAA Tournament. It was there that he helped lead North Carolina past Oregon and Gonzaga for the Tar Heels’ sixth national title in program history.

Hicks’ name wasn’t called during the ensuing NBA Draft, and he was forced to take an unconventional path to professional basketball. That path led him to the NBA G-League where he signed a two-way contract as a rookie that would allow him to split time between the New York Knicks, and their minor league affiliate, the Westchester Knicks.

Hicks didn’t find a tremendous amount of success at the NBA level during his rookie season, but he did appear in 18 games for New York. In just over 13 minutes a game, Hicks averaged 4.4 points and 2.3 rebounds. His best performance came in the final game of the season when he scored 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting to go along with four assists and three rebounds. He also hit his only three-point attempt, and both shots from the free throw line in 30 minutes of play against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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His time spent in the G-League, on the other hand, was quite memorable. He played 29.5 minutes per game in his 37 appearances with Westchester, averaging 15.6 points and eight rebounds. He converted on 57 percent of his shots from the floor, and nearly 81 percent from the free throw line — better than any of his four seasons at UNC. He also recorded two blocks and 1.5 assists per game in establishing himself as one of the team’s most reliable two-way players.

And in his first four games of the 2018-19 season, Hicks looks to be picking up right where he left off. He’s averaging the same amount of minutes as he did a season ago for Westchester, but putting up more points, rebounds and assists per game. His 18 points per game are second-most on the team, despite playing the fourth-most minutes. And his 8.8 rebounds per game are a team-high. Throw in his 2.5 assists and nearly two blocks per game, and Hicks is one of Westchester’s most well-rounded players.

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Having once again signed a two-way contract for the 2018-19 season, Hicks will have plenty of opportunities to play for New York. And if he continues to play at the level that he currently is, it stands to reason that the 4-8 Knicks would have no problem shaking things up a little bit with some of their young talent from Westchester.