(L-R) Carlin Hartman, Kim Lewis, John "Hot Rod" Williams, Phil Hicks, Tulane head coach Dave Dickerson, and Jack Capella were in attendance for both Williams and Hicks induction into the Louisiana Basketball Hall of Fame. (photo by Phillip Cancilleri)
May 1, 2009
New Orleans - Former Tulane basketball standouts Phil Hicks and John "Hot Rod" Williams were each inducted into the Louisiana Basketball Hall of Fame during the 35th Annual Louisiana Association of Basketball Coaches Awards Banquet on Saturday, May 2, 2009 at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Baton Rouge.
The Louisiana Basketball Hall of Fame is sponsored by the LABC. The Hall of Fame was created in 1975 to honor former great basketball players and coaches from Louisiana colleges.
Phil Hicks took a road less traveled to reach the Louisiana Basketball Hall of Fame.
Hicks, a native of Chicago, started his college career at Loyola University in New Orleans, but the university dropped athletics after his freshman season. "I don't know if I didn't do my due diligence," Hicks said, "but I had no idea that was coming."
Hicks transferred to Long Beach State for one season to play for legendary coach Jerry Tarkanian.
He then decided to return to New Orleans and enrolled at Tulane University. He became eligible between semesters and played 2½ seasons (1973-76) for the Green Wave, leaving the school as its all-time leading scorer.
For his stellar career at Tulane, Hicks, who also played two seasons in the NBA and nine in Europe, is part of the 2009 Class that will be inducted into the Louisiana Basketball Hall of Fame on May 2.
But even Hicks' entrance into the Hall is unconventional as he was selected to be a member of the 2008 Class. The induction date conflicted with Hicks' son, Spenser's graduation from Lake Forest College in Chicago, so the Hall agreed to postpone Hicks' enshrinement until now.
Hicks was an honorable mention All-American and received first-team All-Metro Conference honors in 1976. He was also a three-time first team All-Louisiana selection and an All-South Independent pick in 1974.
Hicks scored 1,586 career points at Tulane (an average of 21.1) and finished as the No. 2 rebounder in school history (895 rebounds and an 11.9 average). For his career he made 52.2% of his field goal attempts.
He averaged 20.6 points (which led the Metro) and 10.8 rebounds in 1976, 22.7 points and 12.4 rebounds in 1975, and 20.0 points and 12.8 rebounds in 1974. He had single-game highs of 41 points and 25 rebounds.
Hicks played for Green Wave coach Charlie Moir, who is a member of the Virginia Tech Hall of Fame for his success as the Hokies head coach.
Hicks participated in one of the most memorable games in Green Wave history, a four-overtime loss to national powerhouse North Carolina in the Superdome in 1976. The Tar Heels, whose coach (Dean Smith) was the U.S. Olympic coach that year, guided a team featuring players such as Phil Ford and Walter Davis.
Though he fouled out during the second overtime, Hicks surpassed Johnny Arthurs' Tulane career scoring record during that game. Hicks still seemed bothered by the Tar Heels "bringing their own referees" to the game, recalling a controversial block-charge call that went Ford's way at a pivotal point in the game.
Following his senior season, Hicks was selected by the Houston Rockets in the second round of the 1976 NBA Draft, as the 27th overall pick.
He spent two seasons in the NBA, making stops in Houston, Chicago and Denver before deciding, "I needed to try something different."
His unconventional path veered overseas. Hicks said he liked that he had more control over his career when he went to Europe. He was able to try out for different teams and he negotiated his own contracts.
He played for teams in Rome, Florence, and Reims, France, staying a total of nine seasons. He met his future wife, Claire, while he was in France.
Instead of playing 82 games as NBA teams do, the European teams played 32 to 40. The games were more spread-out, allowing for more practice times, sometimes two-a-days, which Hicks said helped his development.
Hicks now lives in Glendale, Wisconsin, a city on Lake Michigan near Milwaukee, and works as a wealth management adviser for Northwestern Mutual.
John "Hot Rod" Williams has never strayed very far from his roots in Sorrento, Louisiana.
He became a standout player at nearby St. Amant High School. That attracted numerous colleges to him. He considered playing just up the road at LSU, but ultimately settled on Tulane University, a little farther away but still close enough for his family to follow him.
Though his NBA career brought him to Cleveland and other cities, Williams still called Louisiana home. He still lives just a few miles from his boyhood home, residing in Gonzales.
During his high school career at St. Amant, Williams grew eight inches and his game grew nearly as much under the tutelage of Coach Tommy Wall. He became a well-decorated high school player and much sought-after college prospect.
Defense was Williams' most obvious attribute. At nearly seven feet tall, he was a natural rebounder and shot blocker, but he developed into an equally proficient scorer.
Following an honor-filled high school career, he considered attending college nearby at LSU, but then Tigers coach Dale Brown's plan to redshirt Williams didn't mesh with Williams' desire to play right away and belief he would succeed right away. He would be proven right.
Tulane coach Roy Danforth impressed Williams and even after Danforth relinquished his coaching duties to become athletic director at the New Orleans school, Williams stuck with the Green Wave and new coach Ned Fowler. Things worked out, as Williams became a standout player from 1981-85.
Williams had in instant impact with the Green Wave, making not only the Metro Conference All-Freshman team, but being named first-team all-conference and Louisiana Newcomer of the Year as a rookie.
He went on to become the Metro Conference Player of the Year as a junior and again first-team all-conference as a senior.
Williams was a three-time honorable mention All-American, three-time first-team All-Metro Conference choice, three-time All-Louisiana and three-time NABC All-District selection.
He finished his college career as the second-leading scorer (1,841 points and a 16.0 average) and fourth-leading rebounder (809 and a 7.0 average) in Tulane history.
Williams set school records with a 54.9% career field goal percentage and had 192 blocked shots for a 1.67 per game average.
He helped lead Tulane to two consecutive NIT appearances, reaching the quarterfinals in 1982.
Williams was a second round selection of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 1985 NBA Draft. However, he began his professional career with the Rhode Island Gulls of the United States Basketball League, where he was named Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year. That helped launch him into the NBA, where he joined the Cavaliers the following season and promptly made the NBA All-Rookie first team.
He was a consistent scorer, rebounder, and shot blocker who teamed with Mark Price, Ron Harper and Brad Daugherty to make Cleveland a perennial playoff participant.
Fittingly, his induction comes one year after that of a former Tulane teammate - forward Paul Thompson - who also played with the Cavaliers.
Stories by Les East, written for the LABC