On Jan. 2, Penn basketball lost its sixth straight game, falling to George Mason. Yet despite the loss, the Quakers’ first game of 2014 was a turning point in the team’s season.
And that is because of the re-emergence of sophomore guard Tony Hicks, something Penn needs to see more of in the coming weeks.
Hicks had been coming off of a four-game stretch that saw the sophomore shoot just 20 percent from the field, turn the ball over four times per game and commit an average of 2.75 fouls per contest.
“He has some ability. He is important to this basketball team,” coach Jerome Allen said after Hicks’ non-scoring effort at Rider on Jan. 29. “All 17 guys are [important]. No one player is bigger than the team.”
Maybe it was the benching or maybe it was the end of 2013, but the sophomore guard has turned it around in his offensive production.
In Penn’s last four games, Hicks has shot 47 percent from the field, dishing out four assists per game while making 10 three-pointers.
But before you think that Penn’s leading scorer has it all figured out, there are two other stats from the stretch that paint a very different picture: 3.5 fouls and 3.25 turnovers per game, showing some recklessness during his recent offensive surge.
“He gave me a lift, and I took the roller coaster ride with him,” Allen said about Hicks 18 point, six turnover and five foul performance in Penn’s win over Princeton on Jan. 11.
And in many ways, that quote sums up what the Red and Blue have come to expect from Hicks. One game, he goes for 33 points and looks dominant in a Penn victory. Eight days later, he scores only one point, commits three fouls and turns it over five times.
While Allen is right that no player is more important than the rest of the team, a big part of both Penn’s Ivy hopes and the Quakers’ chances to win on any given day is what the team can expect to get out of the puzzling second-year guard.
And when you look for any sort of trend within Penn’s three wins this season, it comes as little surprise that while Penn has been led by a variety of players — including senior captains Miles Jackson-Cartwright and Fran Dougherty — Hicks is the only person to score in double figures in each victory.
Additionly, Hicks has averaged 21.3 points in Penn’s three wins, while he has scored an average of just 13.3 points in Penn’s other 11 contests.
After Penn’s loss to George Mason, Hicks was candid in his assessment of the team’s play during the nonconference season.
“Every game this year, we played pretty good basketball,” Hicks said. “But I feel like we still haven’t played our best basketball — not even close.”
And while the Quakers as a whole may have played their best basketball against Princeton, Hicks still has his best games in front of him just 44 games into his college career.
So if the Red and Blue are to get more than three wins this season and possibly live up to their No. 2 ranking in the Ivy League Preseason Media Poll, the Quakers will need Hicks to start playing with more consistency.
But until that consistency comes, everyone will just have to strap in for the roller coaster ride.
STEVEN TYDINGS is a Wharton sophomore from Hopewell, N.J. and is senior sports editor-elect of The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.