Tony Hicks, Penn basketball’s leading scorer in each of the last two seasons, has decided to leave the program.
Despite being named a captain for the 2015-16 season, Hicks chose to walk away from the team after conversations with new coach Steve Donahue, according to a press release. Hicks is the first and only member of the program to leave since Donahue took over for Jerome Allen in March.
“After speaking with Coach Donahue about the best situation for Penn basketball and myself, I have decided the best decision for me will be to take a break from basketball,” Hicks said in the release. “I plan to graduate from Penn in May, and then take my next step as a basketball player next year.
“This is a personal decision, and I wrestled long and hard with it because I have thoroughly enjoyed playing for Penn the last three years and wearing the Red and the Blue. I want to wish the guys on the team and the coaches all the best for this season and future seasons, and I will definitely be backing them in the Palestra during these next several months.”
If Hicks had played for the Quakers this season, he would have had to work within a new system after originally coming to Penn as one of Allen's recruits. Donahue told The Daily Pennsylvanian last week that Hicks had taken more time to get used to his system than fellow senior captain Darien Nelson-Henry.
However, the senior guard’s three-point shooting — he hit 37.1 percent of his shots from deep in 2014-15 — may have been able to translate into Donahue’s offensive system, which highly values three-point shots.
"For Tony, it’s probably a little more difficult, just because he’s been a guy who’s been relied on to score so much," Donahue told the DP. "And this offense isn’t necessarily gonna ask him to take the ball and create plays for himself and others. We’re going to do it collectively. Assists are going to be shared. [It's] just a different way to play. I think he’s been committed to getting better. No one works harder, on and off the court.”
While Hicks is the only player to leave the Penn program, other players around the Ivy League have foregone their senior seasons or used their final season of eligibility to pursue a chance at larger Division I institutions in the last few seasons. This includes former Dartmouth guard Alex Mitola — now at George Washington — and Cornell guard Shonn Miller, who left for Connecticut.
It remains to be seen how Hicks will continue his basketball career, either at another university as a graduate transfer or professionally. Neither Hicks nor Donahue were able to be reached for comment at this time.
"I wish him well, and we will continue to do all that we can to help Tony advance his game for his next step," Donahue said in the release. "As for this year’s team, we will move forward and continue preparing for the upcoming season.”
Undoubtedly, the Quakers are dealt a blow to their potential rotation in 2015-16. Hicks started 64 games in his time with the Red and Blue, the most of any Penn player in that span. He reached the 1000-point plateau last season and put up over 10 points per game in all three years with the team.
While Hicks was an offensive threat for the Quakers, his tenure with the program was marked by a handful of on- and off-the-court incidents.
The South Holland, Ill., native was suspended for a total of four games across his three seasons. Along with four teammates, Hicks was suspended one game in 2012 due to a failed drug test, while he missed a game his sophomore season after punching Columbia guard Meiko Lyles. He was suspended for an Ivy roadtrip last season after his conduct during a loss to Brown at home.
Penn does have a crowded backcourt heading into the season, featuring junior Matt Howard, sophomores Antonio Woods and Darnell Foreman and the return of senior Jamal Lewis. On top of that, the team has added freshmen guards Jake Silpe, Jackson Donahue and Tyler Hamilton. The Quakers return a total of 85 starts by members of their current backcourt, including three by junior Matt Poplawski last season.
The Red and Blue will begin their season on Nov. 13 at home against Robert Morris, a team led by coach Andy Toole, a former Penn guard.
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