In his first game back, Hicks stayed on the floor just seven minutes because of foul trouble. Two games later, he played just 14 minutes and scored 0 points — the first time he had been held scoreless in a game since Feb. 28, 2015.
So why the drop off? First, it might be worth noting that Hicks hasn’t really seen a situation like this in the past.
“I’m not used to dealing with injury because it never happens to me,” he said.
Never isn’t an exaggeration. Before missing the road Duke game this season, Hicks had played in all 137 of UNC’s games since he was a first-year in 2013-14. When he’s played that long without any setbacks, it’s reasonable to think missing time threw him into a funk.
But at the heart of these poor performances is something that’s plagued Hicks for the past two years: foul trouble. During the 2015-16 season, he committed a whopping 6.7 fouls per 40 minutes. Hicks has dropped that number to 5.6 in 2016-17, but he’s still a threat to foul out every time he plays a game. Through 31 games this season, he has picked up at least four fouls 13 times.
“If he can stay out of foul trouble and stay on the court, whether it’s getting him the ball down low or him getting offensive rebounds and helping us on the defensive end, all that will help us out,” Joel Berry said. “So just the biggest thing, we’ve just got to keep him on the court.”
But even with the recent struggles, Hicks’ teammates haven’t lost faith in him. They know he’s still capable of big games — like his 21-point, nine-rebound performance against Duke on senior night.
“He gets here in the morning every day to get extra treatment and get back healthy, full, 100 percent so he can be out there with us,” Theo Pinson said.
“So I’m not really worried about him. He’ll be alright.”