Updated: Jun 11
Nolan Hickman has been steadily climbing up the 2021 national rankings and does not appear to be done. He has recently moved up to the 30th spot in the 247 rankings, and stands at 51st in the 247 composite rankings. He played a crucial role on a Seattle Rotary team that reached last summer’s Nike EYBL Peach Jam, where he teamed with five-star rising senior Paolo Banchero and high-major 2021 recruit Shane Nowell. On that Rotary team, a primary ingredient within their recipe for success was decision making and ball movement — Hickman did his part, finishing with a 2.4:1 assist-to-turnover ratio along with being the team’s second-leading scorer.
Alongside another competent passer and ball handler in Nowell at Eastside Catholic High School (WA), Hickman led the Crusaders to one of the top seeds in the WIAA 3A state playoffs, which culminated in the program’s second-straight third place finish. For his senior season, Hickman has decided to accept a new challenge with his transfer to Wasatch Academy (UT). A schedule filled with elite competition, plus the added possibility of playing in the GEICO Nationals should solidify Hickman as the next big-time college prospect to come out of Wasatch.
Schools prioritizing Hickman right now include Arizona, Kansas, Oklahoma, UCLA and Washington, with others from power conferences keeping a close eye on him. What type of player are they pursuing? A point guard who competes at a high level on both ends of the floor, who stands 6’2 with a 6’6 wingspan, with athleticism that’s just starting to truly reveal itself. Hickman has great control as a ball handler, with potential to create shots for himself and an ability to make the right play when he sees an advantage. He excels in transition as well as around the basket in the half court and exhibits nice touch on floaters with advanced body control when slashing. He has off-guard ability as well, and should form quite the dynamic backcourt next to Richard “Pop Pop” Isaacs at Wasatch.
In this interview, Hickman discusses family, his philanthropic endeavors, the decision to attend prep school, what factors he’s weighing in recruitment, overcoming moments of adversity, participating in some of the Seattle protests, and much more.
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present 2021 prospect Nolan Hickman, from Seattle, Washington:
Pro Insight: Can you share a bit about your background?
Nolan Hickman: I’m from Seattle, Washington. I live with my mom and dad and my two siblings, my sister and brother. Basketball has been my whole life ever since I was younger, you know, ever since I was pretty much born my dad put the ball in my hands. Ever since then I just ran with it...but I came a long way, though, you know? I haven't been on the “A-Team” all my life. I experienced some hardships being put on the B-team and just felt stuck like, you know...hurt...but I made it through. I’ve worked entirely hard for where I'm at right now. And I'm not gonna stop working until I get where I want to be, which is the NBA.
PI: What does your circle look like?
NH: The people I lean on the most are pretty much myself and family. My family plays a huge part in all of this. It's not just the people I live with...it's my cousins, all of them. They’ve helped me tremendously, especially with what I'm starting with TheGiveBack Foundation. You know, being my age, it's a lot...with all the handling of everything and doing everything. So my cousins have played a huge role in taking ownership and trying to help me with this foundation. Also I lean on my brothers, Paolo [Banchero], Shane [Nowell]...you guys might know them, but I lean on them. My coach, Coach D. Hennings...that's my guy. I lean on him the most. He definitely has insight on what he's talking about. That's pretty much it.
PI: You created and ran your own basketball camp and you’re getting ready to unveil your foundation...can you share a bit about those endeavors?
NH: Well, this all came about last summer. I went to the [Nike] Elite 100 Camp with Paolo and Shane, right? And I'm in the dorm and you know, I'm going through a day’s worth of full training...it's really a full day of training, running drills, learning how to operate during training. So, I'm in the dorm, I'm just thinking, I'm like, “there ain't nobody my age doing camps like this or bringing something like this back to the town at least, you know?” So I'm like, “I think it'd be really dope if I brought all my guys — my little Seattle and Tacoma hoopers — if I was just to bring them all together and just form a camp.” I just thought it would be dope. So, I brought the idea to my parents as soon as I got back home. I'm like, “listen, this is what I want to do. I think it would be awesome.” And I don't do any of this for me — none of this is for me. I just feel like seeing the kids — because I was at that one point, as well — I looked up to all the hoopers in Seattle, like let's say, like Zach LaVine, Baby Boy [Dejounte Murray], I looked up to all of them. I would question myself, like “do they even see me? Do they know how hard I’m working, at least?” So just for me giving back to the kids and for them to see that I'm watching them and looking over them...it warms my heart.
So TheGiveBack Foundation — I'm actually launching it in January, so it should be launching very soon. I just bought my website, nolanhickman.com. I just got to finish up on design and everything, but it's really coming together. And it will only get bigger over time, hopefully. But right now, it’s basically mainly focusing on families who are on the verge of being poor, or, you know, really on that edge of being on that lower-class level. That's who I'm really focusing on — just giving an extra push or being a resource or providing assistance — helping them get to a stable condition...and especially if they got kids. With the kids, I would at least like to assist them with tools or items, anything that they need: if it's school, if it's basketball, if it's helping them out with anything. I just want them to at least come to the foundation, hook them up with this or that or anything. I just want to give back to them.
PI: Why is philanthropy important to you?
NH: It’s so important because my mom — now I don't want to sound like a typical kid or anything — but my mom, she's the strongest woman I've ever seen. She’s really influenced me to give back to as many people as possible. If I'm fortunate enough to give back to anybody who's less fortunate than me, then I have to — or I need to go out of my way to do that. That’s what she’s instilled in me. So my mom, she works at an all-women's group, like, it's hard to explain, but they all have kids. It's a teen group — so the girls are single and going through it with a kid and if they need resources, or help getting set up with a job, or anything, she helps them with that. So, seeing her do that for six-plus years and me helping her anyway I can, I just feel like I want to start my own thing and do what's best for me.
PI: Which Seattle hoopers did you find yourself looking up to while growing up?
NH: Dejounte Murray — I really, really used to study his game...Rainier Beach and Garfield games....I live for those moments! So just seeing them go at it every time, it just gave me a spark...it gave me and all my friends a spark, so it was amazing.
PI: In your opinion, what makes the Seattle basketball culture unique?
NH: What makes it so unique is that we all come and form as one. I feel like with all the hoopers and vets in the NBA, they all come back and support all the younger dudes. Like when Jamal Crawford comes back into my camp, talking with the kids, I just feel like that just brings unity to all the hoopers in Seattle, or Tacoma — doesn't even matter — it just brings all hoopers together in Washington and we form as one.
PI: The pickup games in the summer can be pretty high-level. Any runs stand out, in particular?
NH: Kyrie [Irving] actually pulled up to one of the runs last summer...runs be so hectic during the summertime...the pros come in. So, you know, [when Kyrie walked in] I'm shook! This is when I was a sophomore, so I was shook...thinking “I'm not about to hoop with Kyrie...I'm shook” — so I was just there watching Kyrie hooping. But yeah, when he came, oh my god, he was going! He was cool. It was crazy.
PI: Who would be on your all-time Seattle basketball Mount Rushmore?
NH: I'm gonna go with the Lod and Rod [Lodrick and Rodrick Stewart] twins...I'm gonna go with Nate Rob [Nate Robinson]...and I'm gonna go with JC [Jamal Crawford].
PI: The twins! That’s a great call, those guys were something else!
NH: They were just so unique....I don't think nobody really thinks about that. Like, twins...and they weren't even the same, either! Like one had handles and the other one just had a jumper. One was left, one was right-handed...yeah, that was nuts. That was ridiculous. I don’t think nobody really realizes how crazy they were in high school. It was turned up.
PI: Describe your game. What are your greatest strengths?
NH: I’m a winner. I give my team the most wins possible. I find my guys, I get the right shots. I'm a playmaker. I'm a scorer. I lead my team. Yeah, that's pretty much all about me.
PI: What do you feel you still need to work on the most?
NH: Right now, I've been working on a lot of pick-and-rolls — I’m really good at that, but I’m trying to perfect it. I've been trying to perfect it nonstop, every time I get into the gym. Another thing that I've been working on is passing — been working on passing a lot. I felt like last season, my passing skills weren’t as fluid or as strong as I’d like. So I feel like if I just strengthen my passes and work on them more, they’ll start to excel.
PI: What’s the most underrated part of your game?
NH: I feel like I don't get enough credit with my athleticism. You know, people kind of feel like I don't be jumping a lot on my jumper or that I can't jump as high, but I feel like this past summer, my athleticism went through the roof. So I feel like if I show it more often, then maybe they'll start to respect me more. But yeah, I feel like that's the most least respected in my game.
PI: What do you love most about the game of basketball?
NH: The reason why I like basketball so much is just the work behind it. I feel like with training and all that — just the sweat and the blood that you put into it — I just feel like that's just the most entertaining part of the whole entire process is just working tremendously hard just to see the results at the end. I feel like that is just an incredible feeling. In the actual game settings...it’s the moments...the moments, that's what I live for. The moments bring out the best part of basketball...so yeah, that's the heart of it.
PI: What’s your favorite all-time memory on the basketball court?
NH: I would probably have to say the most-anticipated match last year with O’Dea and us [Eastside Catholic] — that first game at Eastside. I know that was probably my biggest moment, because there was so much heat behind that. There was just so much talk leading up to it...it just felt so good to just shut them all up, you know? So either that one or the other highly-anticipated game with Mater Dei — me versus Devin [Askew]. So that was a good moment, as well. You know I wasn't shying away from that!
PI: How was your experience participating in the Les Schwab Invitational this past December?
NH: Les Schwab [Invitational] is dope. It’s a dope tournament. I feel like it should be [rated] as high as City of Palms and all the tournaments. I feel like it should be recommended, known, all that. But yeah, they bring competitiveness — it’s lit every year. The crowds are amazing. The schools that are in it, they're top teams — they're not no slouch. A few years you'll catch some blowouts, but other than that, it's a great tournament. I don't understand why anybody wouldn't take time out of their season and come play in the Les Schwab Invitational.
PI: Why do you wear #2? Is there a story behind it?
NH: All my my whole career I’ve worn #2, and the reason why I wear it is because my mom and my dad — you know, that was ‘two.’ So, it was a long time until Noah came, my little brother — so once he came, I decided to scrap my mom and dad and just go with my sister and Noah. So my family has always been part of it, with the #2.
PI: Rank the top-five point guards in the 2021 class.
#1: Nolan Hickman
#2: Kennedy Chandler
#3: J.D. Davison
#4: Daeshun Ruffin
#5: Isa Silva
PI: Do you watch more college or NBA basketball? What are your biggest takeaways?
NH: I watch college basketball...at times I buckle down and watch that the most. You know, seeing the upcoming stars go to the NBA, that’s when I really start watching. But as far as the NBA, I watch it a little bit more — and I don't watch the teams like the Lakers or anything...I don't think I've watched a lot of them. I watch the most underrated teams like the Nets — or the teams who got bad records and you know nobody really watches. So, I watch Spencer Dinwiddie...I watch his game — his game is crazy — just how he gets to his spot, under pressure...he just gets to his spot real good, so I cherish his game. I also cherish Kyle Anderson and how he plays so slow at six-nine or however big he is. So how he gets to his spot, how he finishes at the rim, and how he shoots it. And you know how the NBA game is just fast — that’s one thing every player says when they get to the league — it's just so much more fast than all the other levels. So with them playing as slow as they are and still getting buckets, I just feel like that is just dope.
PI: Do you model your game after anyone in particular?
NH: Honestly, I don't think I model my game after nobody. I think my game is unique. I feel like nobody really dribbles the way I dribble — just the way I put the flavor into it and how I make it look so smooth, and the patience I put into it — I just feel like there’s no one I really model my game after. I mean I look up to certain dudes, like Kyrie. That's the main person I be looking up to, with dribbling and stuff. But other than that, I don't really pattern my moves, or anything, after anybody.
PI: Who in the NBA best resembles your game?
NH: I would probably say Dame [Lillard]. Yeah, he launches it from deep, he can shoot it, handle it. And you know he got the sneaky athleticism...you know, which I'm slowly starting to get. So I feel like, yeah, Dame.
PI: You and Dame definitely share a similar demeanor on the court. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you smile on the court!
NH: That actually started — with me just being like straight-faced and everything, like not even talking or doing anything while I play — it's not that I'm not having fun. Believe me, I'm having fun, you know I love it, so I do have fun on the court. But this all started when I was running track. I started off as a track star — a lot of people don't know that. I went to the Junior Olympics at eight years old. I won it. I still got the record to this day as the 100-meter world record-holder. I won the 200 one as well, but I don't have that record anymore — someone broke it like two years ago, but the hundred is still mine. I think I got a 13.27 or something like that...it’s real quick. But yeah, with running and track, the technique has to be no wasted movements. It has to be straight-faced all the time since that uses more energy. So, when I was running track, I was just straight-faced the whole time, just looking at my end line.
PI: Fastest eight-year-old in the world, all time?
NH: I still got the medals to this day!
PI: Who’s the toughest player you’ve ever had to guard?
NH: I feel like the hardest player I’ve ever had to guard — and I didn't even really guard them, as much — but it’d have to be Cade Cunningham. It wasn't like I couldn't handle him...it was just like every tactic I was doing, it wasn't fazing him. Like, I would jab at him or I would try to throw my hands in a certain way that, you know, might catch others off guard, but he was just not fazed at all at anything I was doing: he was getting to his spots, he was backing me down, he was just — he was a pro — and I don't think I've ever seen anything like that at my level at least. I feel like higher up in all those other levels, that is where I’ll see that at but that was my first experience with someone like that.
PI: That was at Peach Jam, right?
NH: Yes — and I wasn't even on him the whole game! I started going on him like towards the end of it [the game] and he was still giving me, giving us problems. I think he finished with like 37 or something like that and had like seven assists — like that's what's crazy about him...he doesn't even have to score. The way he implements himself into the game is just nuts. He passes it well. It's just crazy.
PI: Talk about pace.
NH: Yeah, his pace is real steady, too. And his demeanor. He don't show nothin’ on the court, as well. Demeanor’s solid...yeah, he’s a killer.
PI: Let’s talk about the big news. Talk us through what went into the decision to transfer to Wasatch Academy. Was it a tough decision?
NH: So, [in the past] me transferring to a prep school was never an option...it was never an option for me or my family. Right after this season — and it was a great season for me — but right after this high school season, and right after last summer, I felt like this is where I started really coming to be myself and started really filling it out. And I just feel like being at Eastside this year and seeing where I went and brought my team to...I feel like I could take that on at Wasatch. And with me visiting — I actually went to visit a few weeks back — and you know, when we went to go visit I felt like that showed my family, not even me, just showed my parents just how legit prep school really is. Right after the visit, my mom was like [laughs] “I don't understand why anybody wouldn't go to prep school.” And after me thinking about it, I was just like, “yeah, they got a national schedule, you're playing pretty much whoever you want to play.” And with my summer being taken away with the EYBL this year, and us not being able to play a lot and get my recognition...I feel like if I was to just go to Wasatch Academy, and play all the teams against the top recruits and competition in the country — I just feel like that's where I will give myself the best chance to excel and get better.
PI: Did you seek out advice from older Seattle hoopers who’d made similar moves in the past?
NH: I actually kind of made it my own thing. I didn't really ask anybody...and it wasn't even that I didn't want to ask them for advice — it was just to a point where I kind of wanted this to be my own decision and based off of the best interests for me and my family. So, yeah, this was pretty much my decision. I didn't really ask somebody about it.
PI: What are you most looking forward to as you make the move down to Utah?
NH: I feel like with me being an addition to their team, I feel like we're gonna go extremely far...and I feel like we will have good chemistry. I already know a few players there — like Pop Pop [Richard Isaacs, Jr.]. So with me coming in forming a chemistry with everybody else I feel like we have what it takes to at least get far into it and make our run.
PI: How do you feel you’ll fit within their system and with the current personnel at Wasatch?
NH: I think I fit in their system with just being able to play fast — playing up and down. I feel like that is where I'm most successful. Even though my pace is slow and patient at times...I feel like going fast is where we’ll most excel. As far as the personnel: Pop Pop...with me and him as the backcourt...that’s gonna be insane. There aren’t many people I think that are gonna to be able to guard that, so yeah, this year is gonna be a show, for sure.
PI: How do you envision you and Pop Pop complementing each other on the court?
NH: With me and Pop Pop, I feel like we could exchange times on when we each handle the ball. With me, I don't have to have the ball in my hands to implement myself into the game. I don't need the ball in my hands 24/7. So I feel like me coming off screens and him throwing me a pass or whatever...me knocking down the shot or dishing it off to somebody else...I feel like that's where we start to come in and be the best at it. Even with me handling the ball and him coming off screens or me outleting it to him and Pop going and getting his...I feel like that is where we're going to excel at the most.