Katrina evacuee Hicks takes the long road to DI basketball

From FOX Sports - December 7, 2017

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP)The floodwaters power erased the carpet on the lower half of the stairs, leaving nothing but exposed wood and nails. Mildew covered what was left downstairs, and a pungent, decaying smell embedded in the nostrils.

This was the home of Kevin Hicks grandmother and, in a way, she was lucky. The water did not reach the second story.

A few minutes away in New Orleans 9th Ward, Hicks childhood home was unsalvageable.

An icky mildew blanket covered the floors and walls. The television lay flipped over. So, too, was Hicks bed, tossed to the opposite side of the room.

A Spiderman painting in his room, started by his father before the waters rose, peeled back. The floors were spongy and ready to give way.

In the front yard, something struck Hicks like a thunderbolt to the heart: Bones.

Three years earlier, the family left for Houston to escape Hurricane Katrina. They expected to be back in a day or two, as they had when Hurricane Ivan skipped past New Orleans.

Angel, a little black pug and Kevins first pet, did not make the trip.

That really got to me, Hicks said. When youre 13, 14 years old and you see the dog on the ground, just bones, it really hurts.

That pain became fuel, propelling him to Sacramento State and his dream of playing Division I college basketball.

The smaller programs among the 351 in Division Ithe low-majorstypically dont have the five-star-rated future pros found on the rosters of college basketballs bluebloods.

Their players are still elite athletes who can shoot, dribble and jump better than almost anyone. Whats missing is an intangibleusually a lack of height, weight or both- that keeps them off the radar of programs like Duke, Kansas and North Carolina.

Hicks is a 5-foot-11, 168-pound junior who is not a true point guard, undersized for an off-guard.

What he can do is shoot, play with a badger-like tenacity and has, in the parlance of coaches, a pop to him.

Sacramento State coach Brian Katz noticed those traits immediately at a showcase tournament in Dallas this spring.

He can really shoot it and we needed some help in that area, Katz said. Hes also a true underdog and I like that.

Repetition honed Hicks shooting ability.

He spent the hours after school and weekends shooting on playgrounds and gyms all over town, using it to reach his DI dream, but also as a form of catharsis from the difficulties in life heaped upon him.

All he did was a shoot, shoot, shoot, his mother, Carla Hicks, said. If he wasnt in school, he was out shooting.

Tenacity forged itself during the tough times, from becoming mature at an early age by necessity, losing everything and clawing to get it back.

Im a tough kid, Hicks said. You realize that everything you have right now could be gone in a matter of seconds and makes you thankful for what you have.

Hicks and his sister, Vershan, had an idyllic life in New Orleans, enjoying their school, friends, the neighborhood, playing outside.

Hurricane Katrina sent them to Houston, packed with what they could fit into two cars the day before the storm made landfall. Too chaotic, too many evacuees, lines for schools too long.

Carla knew someone in Georgia. With her husband, Kevin Sr., deployed in Saudi Arabia, she decided to relocate the family.

It did not go over well.

Me and my sister hated it. We didnt want to be there at all, said Kevin, 10 when they moved. My mom and pops were like, youve just got to give it a chance, but we were so stubborn. We were young and it hurt. Our home was gone. We had nothing.

Kennesaw is a suburb of Atlanta, but has a small-town feel. In other words, nothing like the Hicks had in New Orleans.

The first three months, six family members shared two beds in a hotel room. Kids at their new school shunned Kevin and Vershan, calling them refugees. They were miserable.


Continue reading at FOX Sports »