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Nolan Hickman is using his gift to give back
Kentucky commit Nolan Hickman is the first McDonald’s All-American from Wasatch Academy and just the fourth in Utah state history. (Courtesy: Wasatch Academy Basketball)

Nolan Hickman is using his gift to give back

MT. PLEASANT, Utah (BVM) – Nolan Hickman is Utah’s No. 1 player in the Class of 2021 and the first McDonald’s All-American from Wasatch Academy, but the Kentucky commit is as active in his community as he is with the ball in his hands.

“Nolan is a special kid off the court and I’m just glad that his hard work translated because he is a real one that could truly change the world and his community with his service,” Wasatch Academy head coach Paul Peterson said. “Sometimes we all don’t do well with our platform, but Nolan is one of those kids who I’m glad is successful because I know he’ll do good with his platform and affect the world for the better.”

Hickman’s service begins with a foundation he started, The Give Back Foundation, which provides “access to resources and bridge(s) the gap to meet basic needs for families within our communities,” according to its website.

The foundation began with a virtual basketball camp for local youth unable to leave their homes in the wake of Covid-19. Recently, Hickman and The Give Back Foundation hosted a coat drive that resulted in over 200 coats being donated to help community members in need.

The goal is “to see all children enjoy the basic fundamental childhood experience free from fear, doubt, worry or exclusion,” according to the website.

“I’m using my gift to give back,” Hickman said via his founder page on the website. “I believe The Give Back is my calling from God and He has blessed me with the gifts and relationships that have helped put this all together.”

Hickman has already impacted the lives of those around him as a high school basketball phenom, and Peterson knows his guard’s reach will expand as time goes on.

“This is with a smaller platform, so I can just imagine what he can do with a large platform as a McDonald’s All-American and the Kentucky platform,” Peterson said. “It’s only going to get better.”

As Hickman’s community involvement reaches new heights, so will his game.

The 6-foot-2 Kentucky pledge became just the fourth McDonald’s All-American in Utah state history, joining Lone Peak’s Frank Jackson (2016), Brighton’s Garner Meads (2000) and Emery’s Shawn Bradley (1990).

After beginning his high school career at Eastside Catholic in Sammamish, Wash., Hickman averaged 19.1 points and 5.7 rebounds in 24 games for Wasatch Academy. The four-star prospect fielded offers from Kansas, UCLA, Oklahoma and others before committing to John Calipari and the Wildcats.

Peterson said Hickman’s game is so well-rounded that he’s not labeled exclusively as a scorer, facilitator or defender, but instead a good mix of all of those wrapped into one.

“His ability to take and make hard shots is pretty incredible,” Peterson said. “Defensively, he can pick you up full court and things like that but also offensively, he’s scoring at all three layers and is a phenomenal passer and ball-screener. He hits you from every direction.”

As talented as Hickman is, he’s not the only Division I talent at Wasatch Academy. Including Hickman, the Tigers have three of top 5-ranked players in Utah’s Class of 2021. Robbie Armbrester is the No. 3-ranked player in Utah’s Class of 2021 and committed to Houston while No. 5-ranked Fousseyni Traore is headed to BYU.

Hickman’s willingness to share the ball and the shine will bode well for him during his time at an always talented Kentucky program.

“With Nolan, it helps when your best player is selfless which makes it easier for everyone to buy in with the team concept,” Peterson said.

Wasatch Academy played its toughest schedule in school history this season that included 14 nationally-ranked opponents. At the core of the Tigers’ gauntlet of a schedule was The St. James NIBC Invitational from Jan. 8-18 which pitted Wasatch Academy against Montverde Academy, La Lumiere, Oak Hill Academy and Sunrise Christian Academy – all of which began the season nationally ranked.

The Tigers escaped the invitational with a 4-3 record and ended the regular season at 18-6. Receiving an invitation to GEICO Nationals is the hope for Peterson and the crew after a short spring break.

“I hope they come back refreshed from seeing their family and just ready to play hard and at a high level,” Peterson said. “That’s what it’s going to come down to.”

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