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Like most Eastern Kentuckians, Billy Hicks was destined to be a coal miner, but Hicks had something different in mind.
“I wasn’t a very good coal miner because I was too lazy. So, I figured I had better make a good basketball coach,” Hicks said.
He got the chance to prove himself when the superintendent of the Harlan County School District, gave him a chance.
“She said, ‘I see it in your eyes. You’re different.’” Hicks said. “It was like wow, somebody believed in me.”
That was a defining moment for the young basketball coach, who would go on to lead teams to state titles.
In 30 years, he has been the head coach at high schools such as Corbin and Scott County where he has racked up 800 wins, two state championship titles, 23 state tournament wins, 11 regional championships and 21 district championships.
He’s coached three Mr. Basketball players, as well as three runner-up Mr. Basketball candidates, along with many all-state and college scholarship recipients.
Hicks has also been the head coach of a McDonald’s All-America game.
He has been coaching basketball camps, beginning with the Future Stars in 1995.
Last week, he spent a hot, summer day working with male and female basketball players in Grant County at the Billy Hicks Elite Basketball Camp.
The camp stresses the fundamentals of the game, but it’s dribbling that Hicks considers a player’s most important skill.
“Dribbling is the same for a 2-year-old or a 50-year-old,” Hicks said. “Dribbling and basic shooting never change.”
He designs the workouts for the camp based on his lifetime study of basketball.
“This camp is different because it works on the individual skills of the players,” he said. “We never say the ‘D’ word. We never say defense.”
Hicks said it’s all about teaching defense.
“In a week’s time, I expect them to get better because of two simple things – simplicity and repetition,” he said.
He was quick to give credit to the basketball players who attended the camp.
“I’ve been impressed this week with how hard these kids have worked,” he said. “They’ve worked harder than any of the kids I’ve ever had
For the athletes, the week was great.
“I’ve been to other camps but this one really focuses on individual skills. It will help me with the season next year. He’s taught us things that we can work on at home.” said Tyler Carr.
“This camp helped me work on my individual skills, like ball handling. I’ve learned things at this camp that I didn’t learn at other basketball camps.” said Billie Hearn, a player at the camp.
Hicks said he enjoys working with male and female players.
“Basketball fundamentals are the same for girls or boys. It’s about a player working hard,” he said.
“When you put a basketball in a player’s hand, they are bound to get better.”
His goal is for the players to develop muscle memory and muscle training during the camp.
Coming to Grant County as a coach for the camp, he said, was a treat as opposed to being the coach who faced them during a game. Holding the camp was also a way for him to spend time with his nephew, Jim Hicks, head coach of the Braves.
He attributes any success he’s had as a coach to hard work and the fear of failure.
“Basketball is something I dearly love,” he said. “I have been blessed.”