In sports, there are those moments that are so spectacular, that as fans, we’re moved to ‘oooh and aaah,’ to rise to our feet in celebration.
Then there are moments so painful and heartfelt, that we clutch our chests in anguish.
Such was the case in the 2004 Boys Sweet 16. Warren Central’s Lonnell DeWalt slammed home a putback dunk against Mason Co. in the finals, that still ranks as one of the best I’ve ever seen in person.
But the most indelible Sweet 16 moment that year came in a loss. Scott Co. guard Tyler Hicks fouled out in an overtime loss to Mason Co., ending his high school basketball career. While lying on the floor, trying to savor every last second, Hicks leaned down and kissed the Rupp Arena hardwood.
One singular gesture, seared into our memories forever.
Hicks will be laid to rest next week, passing away from injuries suffered in a car crash on Wednesday night. Hicks was a soldier, returning home from Ft. Knox, to see family in Georgetown.
Tyler’s father, Scott Co. coach Billy Hicks, missed his first practice in 33 years, choosing to stay by his son’s beside, hoping and praying for a miracle.
The younger Hicks wasn’t born with an abundance of athleticism. But he was a gym rat, the kind of kid who loved to compete and couldn’t get enough of the round ball.
I first met Tyler while serving on the board of directors of the Scott Co. Youth Basketball League, then the largest in the state. Tyler was a 10-year-old bundle of energy and outworked all the kids he played against.
Despite his stature (he was 5-foot-10, at best), Hicks made himself into a good player, became a four-year starter for the Cards, earned All-District and All-Region honors, and as a senior, helped lead his dad’s Cardinals to another Sweet 16 appearance.
Hicks quickly earned the respect of the rest of the state who watched him play in that tournament, with his all-out hustle and burning desire to win. A perpetual whirlwind, Hicks’ was a gritty performer, and Scott Co. reached Saturday’s semifinals.
As Hicks walked off the floor that Saturday, his fifth foul in hand and a lifetime of basketball memories in his head, the Rupp Arena crowd rose to its feet, saluting one of the toughest players to ever play in the Sweet 16.
Our condolences go out to coach Billy Hicks, his wife Betsy and daughter Ashley.