Holiday Invitational

UNC signee shines at Holiday Invitational

North Carolina signee’s 24 points, 13 rebounds too much for Clinton

CorrespondentDecember 27, 2012 

— Oxford Webb’s Isaiah Hicks was on center stage Wednesday night at the Holiday Invitational. And the 6-foot-9 forward who has signed with North Carolina showed the kind of versatility that has made him one of the top high school basketball players in the nation.

Hicks mixed a perimeter game with a power game inside to score 24 points and grab 13 rebounds as Webb defeated Clinton 88-67 in the first round of the Shavlik Randolph Bracket at Broughton’s Holliday Gymnasium.

A packed house of more than 3,000 fans was on hand, many to watch the UNC recruit, who is rated the No. 18 prospect in the nation by ESPN.com. He did not disappoint, though he didn’t dominate early.

Content to roam the perimeter in the early going and open things up for his teammates, he didn’t score a point in the first seven minutes of the game.

Then Hicks scored inside and dunked on a fastbreak on consecutive possessions. The Warriors (10-1) were up 21-15 at the end of the first quarter and on their way.

“Everyone is doing their part in our system right now,” Webb coach Leo Brunelli said. “In something like this you have guys really getting a showcase and we try to find the guy who has the hot hand, whoever it is.

“(Hicks) is so unselfish and playing such team ball. A lot of people don’t realize that he is averaging seven assists per game.”

Hicks had three assists against Clinton (7-1), and the player who benefitted the most from his unselfish play was guard Mitron Terry, who scored a game-high 32 points. Terry was slashing to the basket when Hicks was on the perimeter and on the receiving end of outlet passes from the Webb star that started fast breaks for the high-octane Warriors.

“Sometimes I draw players to me and if someone else starts things going, that is fine,” Hicks said. “I tell them, if I pull the defense outside and you have a drive, just take it. Everybody on our team is good.”

In other games, defending Holiday Invitational champion Garner downed Goldsboro 71-42 behind 13 points from Demarcus Sanford and 12 from Julius Barnes, and Greensboro Dudley defeated Leesville Road 60-48 behind 16 points from Sam Hunt in the 4-Team Bracket.

Garner (8-1) and Dudley (5-5) will meet for the championship of the 4-team bracket Thursday at 2:20 p.m.

Broughton, getting 23 points from Devonte’ Graham, rolled past Person County 73-50 in a first-round game of the Summit Hospitality Bracket. In the day’s final game, Word of God defeated Apex 58-47 behind 18 points from Shane Whitfield and 16 points from Josh Newkirk in a Shavlik Randolph Bracket game.

One of the opening day’s games – St. Joseph’s (N.J.) vs. Holly Springs in a Summitt Bracket game – was canceled because the New Jersey school had travel difficulties.

Holly Springs lost a coin flip to determine the advancement of the two teams in that game, dropping into the losers’ bracket.

St. Joseph’s will play Friday in the winners’ bracket. It will mark the tournament debut of 6-11 junior center Karl Towns Jr., who is rated as the No. 3 player in the class of 2014 by ESPN.com.

With Towns absent, the spotlight fell to Hicks, who is averaging 18 points, 16 rebounds, six blocks and seven assists, Brunelli said.

Hicks had three assists and four blocks and was 10-for-17 from the floor, hitting one of two 3-point attempts. He also dribbled the ball up the floor on occasion.

The versatility in Hicks’ game has gradually emerged, Brunelli said.

“His freshman year, defensively he was unbelievable. Then he realized that coach will get him the ball if he works on his offense,” Brunelli said. “Now I have to chase him out of the gym.

“Last year, I think after our playoff loss he was already thinking about postseason workouts. We gave him a couple of weeks off and I told him we have got to extend to 19, 20 feet.”

“Someone asked me why have a 6-9 guy bring the ball down the court. Because the 6-9 guy can bring the ball down the court.”

Hicks showed the ability to catch the ball 15 feet from the basket, make a couple of dribbles to get a step on a defender and pull up for a soft jump shot.

“I’ll be playing against guys my own height and I can’t just go up and shoot it,” he said. “I had to develop that one-dribble, two-dribble, pull-up jumper.

“I try to be balanced in my offense. Just work on everything, the inside game, the outside game.”

The powerful forward showed some explosiveness around the basket as well. He had three dunks, including an acrobatic alley-oop on a fast break that brought the crowd to its feet.

His day was cut short when he picked up his fifth foul with 2 minutes, 44 seconds remaining in the game, and he left the floor to a loud ovation.

The crowd had gotten what it came to see – a versatile future Tar Heel who did a little bit of everything.

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