Zach Hicks had nine points and fine rebounds in Temple’s 72-49 win over the Maryland-Eastern Shore at the Liacouras Center on a night when the Owls were slow out of the gate offensively and had a slim, one-point lead at halftime.
When head coach Aaron McKie was asked about Hicks last Friday, he shined a light on the true freshman’s scoring.
“It’s one thing to be able to try to score 20 points or try to get 20 shots,” McKie said during the team’s media day. “Zach knows how to do both.”
Hicks’ first notable play of the game was a dropped pass in the deep corner that went out of bounds. Sophomore guard Khalif Battle was credited with the turnover and it was the closest thing Hicks had to a turnover for the rest of the night, as he went on to contribute a plus/minus of 18 in his 15 minutes of play.
“Unfortunately, it was just a hard pass for him in the corner,” McKie said. “He missed it, but he’s fine. He’s on to the next play.”
While McKie credited Hicks’ mentality, Hicks said he got the mindset from his head coach.
“Coach always preaches to me, ‘Next play. Everyone makes mistakes,’” Hicks said. “Ever since then, I just shrug it off and keep playing.”
The next play described Hicks’ night.
The freshman didn’t attempt a shot until the 15:52 mark of the second half, a missed three from the right wing. He went on to hit his next two shots, one from the right wing and the other from the left corner.
Hicks went on to alternate misses and makes, and picked up all three of his fouls before being subbed out with about four minutes remaining.
“The team was coming back and we needed a spark,” Hicks said. “Opportunity struck… just keep shooting the ball. That’s what coach got me here to do.”
The progression of Hicks, physically and mentally, is something coaches and players alike have been excited to see, with Battle perhaps being the most involved on the players’ end.
“I’m hard on Zach because I see the potential,” Battle said Friday. “If he keeps working, he can make his [NBA] dreams come true.”
After Wednesday’s win, Battle couldn’t wait to brag about his young guy.
“I told y’all he’s gonna be a great player here,” said Battle, who led Temple with a game-high 22 points.
While there were bright spots like Hicks’ five rebounds and 3-for-6 shooting from beyond the arc, there was still room for improvement.
When talking about Hicks’ defense, McKie said Hicks is “a work progress, adding that Hicks is “up for the challenge.”
All signs point to Hicks being receptive to constructive criticism, something he credits his parents for.
“Growing up,” Hicks said, “my parents always told me, ‘Don’t be offended when people give you constructive criticism. Just take it and learn from it.’”
Hicks went on to give more credit to his father, Jeffrey.
“There was a point in basketball where I had to train every day,” Hicks recalled, “and I didn’t want to do it. He’d just tell me, ‘Get through it. You can be something one day.’”
Hicks’ quest to prove his father right continues Saturday when Temple hosts Isaiah Mobley and USC, a team that earned a No. 6 in last season’s NCAA Tournament and advanced to the Elite Eight.