February’s baller of the month goes out to not one, but two players!! This months honor goes to Josh Hicks and Josh Wynn of Western Kentucky University. These two fine athletes earned the honor after leading their squad to a 3-1 record at the UK Invitational. Some may say going 3-1 is no big deal, but this squad was previously 0-4 and defeated in-state rival Kentucky at home. Here is the conversation I had with the two:
Jacob Leski: Gentleman, congratulations to the both of you on this tremendous honor. Both of you without a doubt deserve this high praise for reestablishing a competitive squad at Western Kentucky. So, let’s get straight to it…
A month ago WKU went 3-1 at the UK invitational. Describe what it was like to get those decisive victories after having 4 losses and no wins prior to the tournament?
Josh Hicks: First of all, thank you for selecting us to be the Baller’s of the Month! I think it’s pretty appropriate that the two of us were selected since we play pretty well together as a pair of Joshes. Josh has been a great teammate throughout my dodgeball career and constantly pushes me to be better.
After losing our first game at the UK invitational, I was prepared for a weekend of losses. However, the team stayed positive going into the DePaul game and won the first point without me and Josh playing which was very enjoyable to watch. We carried the momentum and confidence from the win over DePaul into our next two games and played just about as well as I’ve ever seen WKU play. Having that many losses is not really unfamiliar territory for us, but it’s nice to show out every now and then and get a few wins.
Josh Wynn: Thank you very much! The UK tournament really boosted morale throughout the entire team. Everyone loves to play the game, but it was getting old always coming up short of a win. All in all, it was a breath of fresh air for everyone after we competed so well and revealed some of our potential this year.
JL: I can only imagine. Why do you enjoy playing dodgeball for Western Kentucky? What makes your team unique?
JH: I enjoy playing dodgeball for Western because of the people I was able to first learn the game under, like Felix Perrone and Alex Sorrels. Their attitude towards the game and playing style helped me to shape how I play. I think our team is unique in that we usually aren’t expected to have much success, which leaves a huge opportunity for upsets.
JW: After high school I HAD to find a way to continue competing in some form or
fashion in sports. The dodgeball program here at WKU granted me that privilege again. I often look at other teams and while most display much more talent than us, I see much more cohesion on our team than many. Our team is so tightly knitted together that even our best player would go down just to keep another on the court. We’re a family.
JL: That is great to hear, this sport is about a lot more than just playing the game. Describe to me some of the ups and downs of WKU Dodgeball over the last couple of years…
JH: A constant “down” for us, like you referenced in the first question is many losses during a season with few wins. Over the past few years we have had a few ups though. My freshman year during Nationals 2014 we were able to upset OSU in the first round on Sunday. Although we didn’t have a very strong showing at Nationals 2015, I think I can speak on behalf of the whole team and say we thoroughly enjoyed hosting everyone. And the biggest high this year so far has been the great 3-1 finish at the UK invitational.
JW: My freshman year Felix Perrone was the captain and held a major influence over every aspect of the game. When he left his absence tremendously impacted the program. It was like building from the ground up again. We lost several other key players that year and had to start over. There were times we would attend tournaments with 9 or 10 players. On a positive note, we are rebuilding and we’re becoming successful. I’ve watched kids I honestly thought would never be able to impact a game come out to play and they’ve developed into key players.
JL: Felix Perrone was without a doubt a catalyst for your organization and the loss of someone like him to any team would hurt. That leads me to my next question: Nick Johnson was a large part of your organization for many years as well. What has the transition been like with new leadership and a roster full of young players?
JH: Nick Johnson is still a large part of the leadership of the team and we have a fairly diverse group of leaders on the team whether it be the actual captains or veterans showing out to help the newer players. With that being said, it hasn’t taken much for our younger players to jump right into the team and become key components. Our team has definitely developed this past year and allows for players who were relied upon more last year to shoulder less burden during a game.
JW: Nick was the only person capable of continuing where Felix left off because of the many years they had played together. After he left, it was trial and error for a bit, while great players such as Dominique Warfield and Hunter Dickison simply lacked the experience to make our program what it had once been. Every game we played our strategy was changing. Fast paced to slow paced, conservative to being aggressive. We really struggled on dialing in to what our young team needed to do. We lacked power throwers and overall game experience. I would honestly say some of our starting players were still “afraid” of the ball and were extremely intimidated of other teams.
JL: National’s is coming up very soon, what are your goals for your team?
JH: With nationals coming up, obviously the greatest achievement would be to win it all. However, I would like to see us win at least one game on Sunday and I truly think we can do it this year. However as long as everybody plays their best and simply enjoys playing I will be happy with however we finish at nationals.
JW: Our goals for Nationals are pretty clear. To compete and make it further than we did last year. After the UK tournament we realized that we can compete with schools, and I hope other teams do too. WKU has literally been a punching bag the past few seasons and now we can hit back. If everyone continues to know their role and compete on the level we recently have, there’s no reason for us to be skunked anymore.
JL: Thank you gentleman. Congratulations on your recent victories and I look forward to seeing both of you at National’s in April!!
JH: Thanks for all you do with writing for the NCDA and hopefully our paths will cross sometime. Have a good one.
JW: I appreciate the reward. I do not know if you had any direct responsibility for the decision, but it’s an honor.
It is clear to see that these young men have their eyes set on making a statement at National’s and for good reason. If teams around the league were smart, they would not take this team lightly come April.