Stephan Hicks may not have gotten on the court during his 10-day stint with the Indiana Pacers – his first time in the NBA – but he sure liked the feeling of being in that uniform.
“I got a little taste of it, so I've just got to keep working and I'll be there,” said Hicks, whose Mad Ants face the Capital City Go-Go at 11 a.m. today at Memorial Coliseum.
Hicks, who is in his fourth season with Fort Wayne, was signed by the Pacers on Jan. 20. It was similar to what the Pacers did last year with Trey McKinney Jones, rewarding a longtime Mad Ants player for his hard work.
But Hicks, who was on the bench for four games with the big club, believes he's destined to return to the Pacers.
“It was great,” he said. “The opportunity I've been wanting the last four years finally came. It was a great experience, just getting a feeling of what that next level is like. I appreciate the opportunity that the Pacers' organization gave me and I feel like I belong at that level, so I'm going to do whatever it takes to get up there and stay.”
The Mad Ants' roster was again in flux Wednesday when the team shockingly released Tra-Deon Hollins, who was second in the G League in assists (8.4) and steals (2.6), and was averaging 7.2 points over 30 games. Ike Anigbogu also was called to the Pacers.
Mad Ants general manager Brian Levy declined to comment on Hollins but said Fort Wayne doesn't retain his rights.
Ironically, just three weeks ago, Hollins spoke about the relationship he had with coach Steve Gansey, saying: “It's a marriage. He'll call (the play) and I'll execute it. We've got a good thing going now. I don't think we've got a divorce in our future.”
Hicks has upped his game since returning from the Pacers. In three games, two of which were victories, he's averaged 18 points and eight rebounds, bringing his season averages to 16.4 points and 7.0 rebounds in 30 games, while continuing to show he's able to play shooting guard, small forward or power forward for the Central Division-leading Mad Ants (17-15).
“I came back with a little more confidence than what I had before I left,” said the 6-foot-6 Hicks, 26. “Playing against those guys, like (Darren Collison, Victor Oladipo and Thaddeus Young), playing against those guys in practice, then coming down here, you feel like you can do anything.”
The season-ending kneeinjury to Oladipo led to the call-up of Edmond Sumner from the Mad Ants. Sumner's departure, coupled with the loss of Hollins, has put more of the onus on Hicks to produce, but he's willing after his NBA experience.
“I wasn't too nervous. I kind of knew what to expect there,” he said. “They wanted me to practice and do the little things. I wanted to get up there and show that I'm a hard worker, that I don't take days off, and I think that's what I did.”
Capital City (18-14) has former Pendleton Heights and Butler player Kellen Dunham, who is averaging 6.5 points and shooting 47.4 percent from 3-point range.
At 7 p.m. Friday, the Mad Ants play host to the Windy City Bulls, who have former Mad Ants players Walt Lemon Jr. and C.J. Fair, and former New Haven and Notre Dame star V.J. Beachem.
Friday will be Indiana Donor Network Night, and the Mad Ants will honor Beachem's former high school teammate Steve McElvene, who died in 2016 from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy while a player at the University of Dayton. McElvene was an organ and tissue donor, making the decision to do so the day before he died.