It was the days leading up to the start of boys basketball practice to kick off the 2017-18 season and Abe Hicks had made a decision.
The then-junior sat down with Braves coach Marc Davidson and let him know.
“I remember that perfectly,” Hicks recollected. “I had no intentions of playing basketball anymore. I didn’t want to play. It wasn’t in my heart.
“I guess it was a mix of me not enjoying it and a sense of laziness. Maybe I just didn’t want to put the work in.”
Hicks’ first love is baseball. Going from summer and fall baseball right into basketball, then spring ball with Blackhawk Christian had Hicks feeling that basketball just wasn’t necessary.
It didn’t take him long to reconsider.
After talking to his parents, who told him he would regret not playing hoops yet left the decision up to him, Hicks e-mailed Davidson.
“He wanted to come back,” said Davidson, explaining the e-mail. “I was really excited because with his quickness, he has a natural ability in basketball.”
But there was a problem. The varsity roster had already been set. Instead of bumping someone down to junior varsity who had earned a varsity spot in the pre-season, Davidson told Hicks he would have to play JV.
Playing junior varsity as a junior? Some kids would have walked away right then.
“I stuck with it because it felt right,” Hicks said.
The perseverance paid off. Hicks improved as a JV player a year ago and made the postseason roster for the Braves, watching from the bench as the team fell to Southwood in semi-state.
It was then that Hicks knew he and his team had unfinished business.
“After that loss I was like, “Ohmigosh, this sucks,'” Hicks said.
Hicks’ baseball commitments took him away from the team for the majority of the summer. Davidson admits he didn’t really know what to expected from Hicks as a senior when practice kicked off in September.
“This fall he came in really focused,” Davidson said. “He improved so much from September to November and he earned a spot in our starting lineup.”
Hicks has embraced his role as a senior, his only year on varsity. He averages 6.6 points per game and shoots 43 percent from three-point range. His athleticism in the backcourt is also advantageous for a team bristling with weapons.
“Abe provides a level of athleticism that is rare,” Davidson said. “He is extremely quick and he runs the floor extremely well. We knew that about Abe, but where he has really improved is his shooting. His freshman and sophomore years he really struggled shooting the ball. Even last year he wasn’t a perimeter shooter.”
Hicks has had his moments this year, including 16 points in the two-point win over Chicago Orr in January. Last Saturday in the semi-state rout of Lafayette Central Catholic the senior had just one bucket and finished with two points.
He was OK with it.
“If there is a game where I need to rebound, defend or just sit on the bench, I am fine with that,” Hicks said. “I go in with the mindset that it is alright if I’m watching the other guys be successful.”
Chances are Hicks will play a key role in Saturday’s 1A state championship game against Barr-Reeve. With his energy and quickness likely going to be used in an attempt to keep the Vikings from settling comfortably into a half-court game.
Not a bad situation for a guy who at one point felt his days as a basketball player were over.