UK Basketball: Christian County native Hickey 'on the right path' at LSU
LSU guard Anthony Hickey, center, a former Christian County star, leads the Southeastern Conference and the nation in steals. (AP Photo/The Advocate, Heather McClelland / February 27, 2013)
“I thought early there were some challenges there for Anthony,” Jones said Wednesday before the start of the Southeastern Conference tournament.
Jones said he wanted to make sure Hickey “was on the right path” and showing the leadership the team needed at point guard.
“I think he struggled with that early on, but I think he’s grasped it and I think he’s welcomed it with open arms,” Jones said. “I think he’s really played extremely well down the stretch for us and really has bought in to what we’re asking him to do, and I think he’s seen the success that he’s had because of it, and I think it’s been great for him.”
Hickey, a sophomore, was averaging an SEC-best 3.4 steals per game going into today’s game against Georgia. That ranks him 14th nationally. He’s fifth in the SEC in assists with 3.8 per game, and he also averages 11.8 points and 3.4 rebounds per game.
“Everybody ain’t always on your side. You just have to keep playing basketball,” Hickey said. “That is my passion, and I love the game. I leave all the negativity alone. You are going to have bad games. It is all about what are you going to do the next game.
“When I was in trouble, everybody was kind of down on me. Some people encouraged me and some just left me alone. But God gave me a second chance, and I just took advantage of it. I told him to guide me and I would do the right thing. I am just trying to take care of my business and be a better man.”
Question: Do you still pay attention to the Boys Sweet Sixteen considering what a great run you had in that tourney?
Hickey: “I kept up with Hopkinsville. That is close to my old school. I know they made Final Four. I (was) glad a school close to me made it that far.”
Question: How big a deal is playing in the state tourney?
Hickey: “It was just like the Final Four. Everybody is watching as you keep winning and get closer to the championship. You get more eyes up there, too. You always want to do that to get more exposure.”
Question: How do you deal with “more eyes on you” like you did and Madison Central’s Dominique Hawkins did last week when he led his team to the title?
Hickey: “Yes, it is pressure, but just play like you have been. You don’t change. It’s just more people looking at you that have not seen you play before. You might feel like you have been playing like that all year, and then people come on the scene and say, ‘Where has this kid been?’
“I know how that feels. I wasn’t getting that many looks (from colleges), and I went up there and played the same basketball I had been playing and more people started watching. Everybody is going to watch you on TV or whatever. My high school always played in big gyms. I just had the mindset we were going to a big arena, so I had to be ready and be focused. I knew everybody would be watching, and you want that.”
Question: Do you think it would be hard for a last-minute push by Kentucky not to impact someone like Hawkins, who grew up a UK fan?
Hickey: “It’s not hard. A kid has to take his best offer. I wish the kid the best of luck. It is all about where you want to be and not about who makes a decision for you. It’s about you at the end of the day. The best offers that come, that is the one to go with. Wherever you feel like you are comfortable, go with it.”
Question: Did you grow up a Kentucky fan in Christian County?
Hickey: “Yeah, I grew up that way. I had people on my basketball team and my elementary school and middle school watching Kentucky. We would go over to their house and we would always have Kentucky games on. That’s when Tubby Smith was coaching when I was a big Kentucky fan, and I think Patrick Sparks was the point guard. Jodie Meeks was there, too.”
Question: Did Kentucky and coach John Calipari ever show any real interest in you?
Hickey: “I really never heard from anybody at Kentucky to try and offer me. We talked about it, but nobody really showed interest in me, so I had to look elsewhere. I would have liked to play at home, but it wasn’t where my heart was at or I would have been there. But I never got an offer from there.”
Question: Do western Kentucky athletes sometimes get overlooked statewide by media and fans?
Hickey: “Yeah. I think it happens sometimes. Colleges are the same. They (UK) recruit out of Kentucky. I am not really sure why, but that’s just part of basketball. People sometimes mess up and don’t get some people on the recruiting.
“But you can’t get everybody. I am just glad I get to play against Calipari and watch him. I still have respect for everybody at Kentucky and Louisville. That is like my hometown teams. It’s part of recruiting. Everybody does not get picked to go to Kentucky or Louisville, your dream schools. You just take whatever you’ve got.”
Question: Do you notice how Calipari constantly praises your game?
Hickey: “I noticed that. I know Calipari is a great coach and coaches the best of the best. He’s just humble about himself. Even though he has all those championships and wins, he is steady and wants to win more.
“I am just glad that just because he didn’t pick me that he still has great things to say about me. That’s another great thing that lets me know he is a positive man. Things have worked out well for me. I just took what I got. We are getting better.”
Question: Why do you think Kentucky is not the same caliber team this year as last season?
Hickey: “I can’t answer that. Maybe just that they are young. Some of their players just have to step up and control of what they have got. Just because (Nerlens) Noel go down ... it just means other big men have to come in and play positive minutes. You never know what can happen. You have to be ready when your number is called.”