After spending his rookie season with the New York Knicks, Isaiah Hicks returned to the team on a second two-way contract. Throughout the 2018-19 campaign, Ridiculous Upside will follow the big man’s journey through his second season.
This isn't Isaiah Hicks’ first cab ride around the Big Apple. He was apart of the first pair of the New York Knicks two-way players and spent a majority of his rookie season with the Westchester Knicks. Hicks started out his rookie season in the G League and had the opportunity to further hone his skills to make him more prepared for the NBA. After his NBA debut on Feb. 8, he spent the final portion of the season with the big club, which gave the young big man a confidence boost.
“That was a big confidence booster,” Hicks said. “This is a league to get better and it showed throughout the year. When me and Luke (Kornet) went up back up and we played, it showed that we got better.”
In July, Hicks was offered another two-way contract. By returning to the organization on a similar deal, the Knicks showed they are invested in his development and have hopes that he can fit into the team’s young core.
“It’s always good to have the organization help you get through something and have faith that you’re going to get better and I feel like that’s the thing,” Hicks said. “They’re giving me time to really develop.”
In his rookie season, Hicks didn’t join New York until Oct. 20— one day after New York’s season opener and two weeks before Westchester started their season. This year was a tad different. When it came to his options for his second season, Hicks wanted to lock a deal in early and continue working and preparing himself for the 2018-19 season. The second-year forward signed his deal early and was with the Knicks from Summer League through the preseason.
“It’s always good to be somewhere that you’re comfortable with,” Hicks said. “You don’t have to worry. Last year, I know it was going through the draft process and all this and that. Technically, it was just going every where. This year I stayed in New York. Just really worked.”
Over the summer, Hicks stayed in New York for most of the summer to work with his teammates: Frank Ntilikina, Damyean Dotson, Luke Kornet, Trey Burke, and former Knick Troy Williams. His offseason regimen included being in the weight room and running outside on the track. He noted that they all stayed and got better together. Hicks added what he emphasized during the offseason and what he looked to improve on.
“I would say my biggest thing is my body,” Hicks said. “Just getting into more shape and getting stronger. Just doing anything I could to just stay on the floor longer, work on my outside shooting, and honestly everything overall.
Not only was the group preparing for the season, but the players were building chemistry in the process.
“Throughout the year when you’re with a group of people for a certain amount of time, you build that chemistry,” Hicks continued. “You build a bond with each other because you’re going through the same thing. That’s why I feel like me and Luke got close last year because we both were going through the two-way thing for the first time. I feel like that really helped our chemistry and helped bond. It’s always like that when you go through something with somebody, it tends to bring you together.”
When Hicks wasn’t preparing for his sophomore season in the Big Apple and had a few days off, he went back to his home in North Carolina to spend time with his family.
In July, he was honored by his hometown of Oxford, North Carolina when the city dedicated a court in his name. That was a special moment for Hicks, who also spent four years at North Carolina, and is something he is extremely thankful for.
“That’s an unbelievable feeling because growing up my dream was to play basketball,” Hicks said. “Where I’m from, not many people can make it to the professional level. But, for me, for them to dedicate something to me, that was just like, ‘wow.’ I feel like I’m just getting started.”
Before the regular season tipped off, Hicks joined the USA Men’s Qualifying Team alongside a group of talented players with NBA and G League experience. In the two games, the USA team picked up a 114-57 win against Uruguay and a 78-48 victory against Panama. In those games, Hicks totaled 13 points, nine rebounds and one steal in 24 minutes. It was a great experience for Hicks, especially playing under former Knicks coach’ Jeff Van Gundy.
“It was an honor just to play under (Jeff) Van Gundy, who is a former Knicks coach,” Hicks said. “I feel like the things he emphasized are things Fiz (David Fizdale) wants to get back to. Running the floor (and) playing hard. That was just a little jist of it, so just being able to go out there, especially with Coach Mike (Miller) out there with me, it was a great experience.”
So far, Hicks is on a tear early on in the 2018-19 season. He is averaging 18.7 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks on 54.2 percent shooting from the field through seven games. After a strong start to the season, Hicks is looking to show that he is ready to start his 45-day clock on his two-way contract.