Rewind to a little more than a year ago, and it wasn’t obvious that Zach Hicks was going to be in this position.
Sure, Camden Catholic coach Matt Crawford saw the potential. But Hicks was coming off a freshman season in which he didn’t even play on the Irish’s varsity team, a talented squad that made the New Jersey non-public A state final.
Then, last season the jump came.
“He had the guard skills, and then he grew to 6-foot-7, so now he’s got the guard skills with the big man’s body,” Crawford said of his star junior. “He’s become a great shooter. He’s got a great all-around game, and he can really get to the basket.”
That growth — both physically and basketball-wise — proved critical. Hicks, then a sophomore, served as one of Camden Catholic’s three offensive anchors last winter, helping the Irish get back to the non-public A state final.
Now, following yet another year in which Camden Catholic came up just short, it’s on Hicks to get his team over that hump.
“Now that I’m a junior I’m the leader of the team,” Hicks said. “So, every day during practice, I’ve got to let the guys know we can’t fool around, [and] we have to handle business.”
Through the first two weeks of this season, the Irish did just that, ripping off seven wins in eight games, with only a low-scoring loss to Paul VI in the midst of that start.
But against South Jersey’s current top-ranked team Hicks and Camden Catholic were thumped, 65-25, on Saturday by crosstown rival Camden.
Even though Camden held Hicks to a mere three points, the Irish’s clear standout is still averaging more than 16 points and three rebounds per game.
That skill set has the junior already drawing offers from mid-major Division I programs in the area. Temple, La Salle, and Drexel are among the early suitors, and it’s not unreasonable to think more teams could come calling by season’s end.
“I’ve always wanted to play on a high level, and just seeing the colleges call me ... it’s just giving more confidence in that dream,” Hicks said.
Camden Catholic, which slots in as No. 5 in The Inquirer’s weekly South Jersey rankings, will get rematches with both Paul VI and Camden in the next month. Until then, there’s still plenty for Hicks to build on.
And while Hicks identified a few areas in which he’d like to improve his offense, Crawford has even higher expectations for a guy who’s on pace to hit the 1,000-point plateau next season and potentially become one of the Irish’s best three-point shooters of all time.