In late October, senior guard Tony Hicks elected to leave Penn basketball in order to take a break from the game of basketball. In doing so, Hicks left open the opportunity for him to graduate from the University in May before using his final year of NCAA eligibility at another school as a grad transfer. On Tuesday, The Daily Pennsylvanian confirmed that Hicks had elected to play his final season at Louisville in 2016-17. We spoke to Hicks by phone Wednesday afternoon.
Daily Pennsylvanian: Why did you choose Louisville and what was the process that led to that decision?
Tony Hicks: I actually wasn't really looking into them at all. But Damion Lee, their leading scorer, is a grad transfer also, he came over from Drexel. I've formed a relationship with him over the years with him being at Drexel, and as soon as he heard that I wasn't playing [this season], he contacted me to see if I was okay and things like that. He also told me not to be surprised if Louisville came calling. So I was just at home during winter break and he gave me a call and asked me to come to a game to see how it is and if I liked it. [Louisville] didn't have my release, so I went down on my own, paid for the hotel and everything. I went to a game [against Wake Forest] on a Sunday, they got my release on Monday and coach [Rick] Pitino gave me a call and let me know how they felt. They thought I'd be a great fit. And I fell in love with the place when I was down there, it was a phenomenal atmosphere and it's the highest stage, the expectation is national title every year. It was just an opportunity I couldn't pass up.
DP: What did Pitino say to you about grad transfers playing at Louisville right now?
TH: [Lee and Cleveland State transfer Trey Lewis] are their leading scorers, and they don't have a ton of guards right now. They're very big-heavy and very young right now besides those two seniors, and they just felt I could come and fill that void. Hopefully I'll score some points and play some good defense for him. I am just there to do whatever they want, they just want me to come be myself and I want to come help them win games and try to be the best teammate I can be. I want to be a part of something special. As far as my role, they just want me to come be myself and be the basketball player that I have always been.
DP: What other schools were you considering before choosing Louisville?
TH: In addition to Oregon, the University of Miami was very interested, as well as the University of Nevada. I didn't want to wait too long though, that was the thing, I wanted to choose a school where I felt I would be a priority. I didn't want to go somewhere where a school called last minute and was just trying to fill a roster spot. So once I got the call from Louisville, it was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. They're an ACC school, they play a phenomenal schedule every year and play some of the best basketball in the country.
DP: Was there any concern on your end about the recruiting allegations currently pending against Louisville?
TH: They brought that up to me and they honestly feel that nothing will happen. I feel the same way. Nobody who is in the program currently had any idea of what was going on and they just hope that the truth comes forward. The absolute worst case scenario would be no NCAA Tournament next year, but they don't feel like that'll happen because a lot of the guys on the roster or on the staff had anything to do with it or any knowledge of the problems. And even if there is no NCAA Tournament, that wasn't a deal breaker for me either because of the fact that it is Louisville and they play the teams that they play. It was a relief to hear all of that from coach Pitino.
DP: What have you done to stay in basketball shape since leaving Penn's program?
TH: I can still use the facilities [at Penn] and things like that, as long as the team isn't there, which I completely understand. I usually go work out in the mornings or at nights and I make sure to go in later than when the team would be practicing. I still lift and everything. I have some workout regiments and stuff that I do, and I've been able to stay in good shape.
DP: What sort of influence did the Penn coaches have on your decision to go to Louisville?
TH: Making this decision, no there was not really any influence from the coaches. It was mainly my high school coach [Gary DeCesare], he knows everyone and has a phenomenal background. He knows all the college coaches and things of that nature, so I kind of just went to him for advice. He's had former players who played for Rick Pitino also, so I asked him about it and how he felt. He told me he thought it would be a great situation and a great fit, they need a player who can score and he felt like I could help them out. I talked to [Penn assistant] coach [Ira] Bowman a bit, but nobody really else from the Penn coaching staff.
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