Gentle giant

Hicks gives SoHi basketball a calm, imposing presence

Posted: Tuesday, March 08, 2005


  Soldotna's Matt Hicks goes up for a shot during a game against Nikiski earlier this season. Photo by M. Scott Moon

Soldotna's Matt Hicks goes up for a shot during a game against Nikiski earlier this season.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

Soldotna senior Matt Hicks has used his 6-foot-4, 230-pound frame to become a standout football, basketball and track and field athlete at Soldotna High School.

But when it comes to using his powerful frame for an advantage, sports is as far as Hicks will go.

"He's not big and loud," Soldotna boys basketball coach Joe Trujillo said. "He's soft-spoken, and his message is well-thought-out. Most kids respond quickly, but if you give Matt time, he'll give you a well-thought-out answer.

"He's one of the nicest big guys I've met."

Melodie Hicks, Matt's mother, said her son likes mixing it up in basketball and football, but rage never enters the equation.

"He's not a fighter," she said. "He doesn't get angry very easy. When he does, most of the time it's hard to even tell he's angry."

A good example came in late February, when the Soldotna boys lost 58-38 to the Wasilla.

Hicks is Soldotna's leading scorer at 12.9 points per game and the Stars' second-leading rebounder at 6.7 rebounds per game. He's also had three games with double figures in both points and rebounds this season.

Because of that, Wasilla had him marked as a main threat and assigned 6-7 Luke Schafer to guard Hicks. As if that weren't enough, Hicks also was double-teamed as soon as he caught the ball. Soldotna had a tough time getting the ball into Hicks the whole game, but not once did Hicks lash out in frustration.

"I've never seen Matt play out of control," Trujillo said. "He brings composure and a real calmness. He's always there to help out.

"He has a really good demeanor toward his teammates on the floor. If they fall on the floor, he'll pick them up."

Hicks said he is determined to find a way to deal with all the extra attention he's been getting from the opposition lately.

"I've got to work harder to get open," he said. "I've got to keep moving around and not just stay in one spot. When you're moving around, you're harder to guard."

Hicks' father, Michael Hicks, is a pastor at Kasilof Four Square Church. Melodie said she believes God is one of the reasons for her son's athletic ability.

"I think God gave him the ability to play sports," Melodie said. "He also works hard and he's very coachable. All the coaches have said he always pays attention and tries his hardest to follow instruction."

Mark Devenney, the track and field coach at Soldotna, said Hicks is very coachable.

"He's always been receptive to everything we've asked him to do," Devenney said. "He's just a good guy to have around. He's a lot of fun."

Hicks was always tall for his age, coming into high school at 6-1, but it took him longer to fill out. As a freshman, he weighed 171 pounds.

For that reason, Hicks competed in the high jump and triple jump in addition to the throws while he was in middle school.

Just before his sophomore basketball season, Hicks broke a growth plate in his knee. He said the time he spent recovering in bed allowed him to start gaining weight.

Throw in a little weight lifting, and Hicks became one of the state's top shot putters. Last year, he finished third at the state meet.

"Even as big as he already is, athletically he's still maturing this year," Devenney said. "He's much better in basketball this year than in the past.

"We're hoping it's the same thing in track."

Hicks also came on strong in football later in his high school career. He did not take up the sport until high school, but by his junior year he had gained enough weight and learned the game well enough to start on the varsity offensive and defensive lines.

This year, Hicks earned first-team all-Northern Lights Conference and second-team all-state at the small-schools level for his work on the offensive line.

"I enjoyed playing the games as much as anybody," Hicks said. "It was the practices that always took some getting used to."

Hicks is described as an avid reader by his mother and as an attentive and polite student by Trujillo, who had him in a math class. However, Hicks said his habit of procrastinating keeps him from doing as well as he should in school.

Next year, Hicks would like to study computer programming and, if possible, play basketball at school.

"He's one of the seniors I'm truly going to miss," Trujillo said. "He quiet even when his friends are boisterous.

"Many times I wish Matt were more vocal. If you put one of the smaller guys' personalities in his body, I don't think anybody could contain him."

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