BY JIM SCHILTZ
CLIFTON PARK — The leading scorer on Shenendehowa High School’s state-ranked boys’ basketball team has left the program for personal reasons according to Plainsmen officials.
Senior Luke Hicks, a 6-foot-4 guard averaging 20 points per game, informed Plainsmen coaches and players Sunday in a team meeting of his decision.
“Luke has been a tremendous player for us,” Shenendehowa athletic director Chris Culnan said Monday. “We understand that there are some challenges he is dealing with right now. We don’t see a situation where Luke will be returning to the team for the remainder of the season.”
Hicks was in his third year with the Shenendehowa varsity that won the state Class AA championship in 2015 and reached the New York semifinals last season.
Culnan said Hicks was not kicked off Shenendehowa’s current edition that is 14-2 and ended last week at No. 22 state among Class AA schools.
“I hope everything works out for him,” Shenendehowa boys’ basketball coach Tony Dzikas said. “I thought it was really big of him to come in and talk with us. He decided he didn’t want to go on. It was a personal decision. I wish him nothing but the best.”
Hicks, whose dad Scott coached one season at the University at Albany (1999-2000) and four at Loyola (2000-04), did not return a phone call from the Daily Gazette seeking comment.
Hicks had received interest from some lower-level Division I college basketball programs, but had received no scholarship offers according to Dzikas.
“Luke’s just got to have fun this season,” Dzikas said before the season began. “He can do everything that I believe a scholarship player can do. What he needs to do is go out, have fun and play the game.”
Hicks saw his last action for Shenendehowa in a Jan. 31 game at Albany which the Plainsmen won 69-55. Dzikas and Culnan both confirmed that late in the first half of that contest Hicks, with five points and two fouls, attempted to check himself back into the game without Dzikas’ consent. Dzikas called a time out and the coach and player had a conversation during halftime. Hicks was not with the Plainsmen in the second half.
“He was facing a team violation from the Albany game,” Culnan said. “He would have missed last Friday [a 74-36 win against Troy] and sat Tuesday [tonight’s game against Shaker].”
Jake Dzikas, the coach’s son, scored a team-leading 19 points in Friday’s Troy game while Mike Pizziketti and Abbas Merchant contributed 12 and 11 points, respectively. Hicks was not with the team for that home contest.
“All you can do is move forward,” coach Dzikas said. “We’ve got quite a few guys back with experience, but it will be an adjustment. We’ve got three weeks [until sectionals] to make sure we’re all set.”
Hicks scored 25 points when Shenendehowa beat Green Tech last season for the area Class AA title 64-46.
“He was the best player on the court that night,” Culnan said.
Hicks was selected to the Section II all-tournament team after that 25-pount outburst, and as a junior also earned a third-team spot on the Suburban Council all-star team.
“Luke Hicks has been a valuable member of the Shenendehowa boys varsity basketball team,” Culnan wrote in a press release that came out Monday morning. “Unfortunately, he has made the decision to no longer participate in basketball at Shenendehowa. We wish Luke all the best.”
Hicks scored a season-high 33 points in a 60-53 win against Guilderland Dec. 16 and had another outing with 28 points and two others with 27 points. In one of those, in an 81-54 victory over Ballston Spa, he fired in a season-high five 3-point baskets.
“Our focus is on 12 kids playing for us right now,” Culnan said.