Nolan Hickman took a chance when he moved from his native Seattle to the tiny town of Mount Pleasant, Utah, to play basketball at Wasatch Academy.
He had to leave his family, which was especially difficult because he’s extremely close to them. At times, he was depressed. He called the experience “one of the hardest transitions of his life.”
But it payed off for Hickman. In the year he spent at Wasatch Academy, he became the school’s first-ever McDonald’s All-American. He signed to play college basketball at Gonzaga. And last week, he won the Gatorade Player of the Year award for boys’ basketball in Utah.
“To come and do it in a whole other state only for one year just goes to show my commitment to the game of basketball, my dedication, my heart, my passion for it,” Hickman said. “I just love it. It is a dream come true.”
Hickman averaged 16.0 points, 5.4 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game in senior season with the Tigers. He is the first player in school history to win the Gatorade award, which is notable because the basketball program has been elite for some time.
“It means the world to me,” Hickman said of being the school’s first award-winner.
Tigers coach Paul Peterson said Hickman always shined brightest when the competition was most difficult. He also seemed in awe of Hickman’s ability to push through adversity.
“He’s just a stand-up, unselfish individual that always put others’ feelings in front of his own,” Peterson said. “To know that he could, with the homesickness that he battled, [be] able to accomplish all these things and for this to cap it I think is pretty special.”
Hickman said his parents informed him that he’d won the Gatorade award via group chat, and that some tears were shed in that moment. And while he became sentimental about the award as well, at the same time he felt like it was a long time coming.
In Peterson’s mind, all of Hickman’s accolades are well-deserved.
“You can tell a kid all the time about sacrifices and stuff, and they might not reap the benefits of it,” Peterson said. “But in Nolan’s case, he’s reaping the benefits of his sacrifice and really striving right now.”