Anthony Hickey wears a smile most days.
But Thursday that smile faded when a reporter asked if Hickey, a Hopkinsville, Ky., native, elicited any interest from Kentucky and Louisville during the recruitment process.
“No,” Hickey said. “Not at all.”
Hickey earned Mr. Basketball honors in Kentucky as a senior at Christian County High School and helped lead his team to the state championship on the Rupp Arena floor. Still, Rick Pitino and John Calipari never called.
“I don’t know,” Hickey said. “Maybe because I was short. It’s a question that hasn’t been asked.”
Hickey has found a home in Baton Rouge where he has started from the jump. Last season, the Wildcats visited Hickey’s new home and throttled LSU, 74-50. Hickey struggled with the Kentucky size and scored just five points. He did, however, tally five assists without a turnover.
It wasn’t until six weeks later that Calipari finally spoke to Hickey.
LSU pushed the No. 1 Wildcats to the brink in the SEC tournament at New Orleans Arena, trailing by just four with 6:30 left in the game after a Hickey steal and assist to Andre Stringer. After the dust settled, Calipari’s ‘Cats had emerged a nine-point victor, but Hickey’s 10 points and four assists were enough to earn a conversation.
“(Calipari) was like, ‘I get chewed out a lot for why I didn’t recruit you,’” Hickey said of the chat. “Keep up the good work.”
Hickey admitted that the brief admission felt good, but there was no mistaking the feeling he harbors about the entire situation.
“I gotta do something to feel better. As long as I get a win, I’ll feel better,” Hickey said rekindling that smile.
In Wednesday’s win against Texas A&M, the Tigers managed to find total comfort amid the lack of organization on the floor.
The full-court press LSU launched early in the first half shifted the pace of the game up several notches and closed the gap on the scoreboard just as rapidly.
Texas A&M looked miserable. LSU looked at peace.
“When you’ve got a point guard like Anthony Hickey who can run around and move with the ball, it’s definitely something we like,” said junior forward Johnny O’Bryant.
And while Hickey collected the eight steals, it was the work up front by junior forward Shavon Coleman that caused the Aggies the most trouble.
Coleman tipped numerous passes and altered the direction of others. The Tiger guards were there to feast on the mistakes.
“I’ve been known for pressing full court from my days in junior college,” Coleman said. “It’s because I’m long and can defend guards. But it’s really the whole team and how we rotate.”
Outside of the obvious statistical benefits of the press, the energy level in the entire building elevates as the momentum begins to build. Back in November Seton Hall succumb to the press and the Tiger energy that came with it. Wednesday was almost a carbon copy.
The Assembly Center crowd came to life, and the Tigers rode the wave to a win.
“I tell Hickey to tell Coach Jones we needed to get in this press,” Coleman said. “Once he called it, we just got excited and made teams turn the ball over.”