COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Dominican's men's basketball team will face Dayton in an exhibition contest at 7 p.m. on Saturday, November 4 in the upgraded University of Dayton Arena, and the game will have special meaning for ODU sophomore guard Sam Hickey (Toledo, Ohio) and his family.
Hickey is in his second year with the Panthers and averaged 12.5 points per game on 46 percent shooting from three-point range in his freshman season. His grandfather Gene's first year playing college basketball resulted in a 1951 NIT runner-up finish with Dayton men's basketball.
"Back then, freshman didn't play," said Gene Hickey, remembering back to his days at UD. "You didn't play until your sophomore year. The 13th game of that season I started and we went all the way to the NIT."
The 1950-51 Dayton men's basketball team was the first group of Flyers to qualify for an NIT or NCAA Tournament in program history.
"We were in New York for nine days and beat everybody except for Brigham Young," Gene Hickey said.
The Flyers earned victories over Lawrence Tech, Arizona and St. John's en route to the program's first NIT runner-up trophy. Hickey's teammate, Don Meineke, averaged 20.6 points per game during the '50-51 season and went on to win the first NBA rookie of the year award.
Another Dayton legend that Gene Hickey shares a special connection with is former Flyers' head coach Don Donoher, who earned 437 wins in 25 years as Dayton head coach. "Don Donoher was my teammate in high school," Gene Hickey said. "He was a junior when I was a senior and we both decided to go down there (to Dayton) and play." Donoher graduated from Dayton in 1954 and the Donoher Basketball Center on the campus of the University of Dayton is named in his honor.
Gene Hickey went on to play professionally with the Toledo Jeeps and also shadowed the Harlem Globetrotters. "Basketball was everything for me," Gene Hickey said. "I had great teammates."
Gene's grandson Sam has carried on in the family footsteps of college basketball, hitting eight three-pointers in three separate games during his freshman year to help Ohio Dominican finish with its best record since the 2007-08 season.
"His love for the game is second to none and that really inspired me," Sam Hickey said in regards to his grandfather Gene. "You really have to love the game to play at the collegiate level. Having conversations with him about basketball and the passion he talked with really helped me develop a passion for the game. His unwavering support is another thing that I really value, and it's one of those things that makes playing the game so much more rewarding."
While Gene's health will not permit him to attend the game, he'll be listening and cheering on his beloved grandson.
"I love him and I'm really proud of him," Gene Hickey said.
Contact: Aaron McPherson