By Aaron Allen, The Seattle Medium
Nolan Hickman, Jr. isn’t the typical high school basketball star. Born and raised in Seattle, Hickman, one of the nation’s top high school basketball rookies and a McDonald’s All-American, is more than X and O on the basketball court, he’s a thinker, a doer and a visionary.
But what’s unique about this rising star in athletics is his vision. At the age of 18, and knowing the influence he’s gained, when you ask Hickman what others see as the most important aspect he prides himself on, people like his father say “the accessibility to the community and to children ”.
While most young student-athletes work on their grades and athletic skills to prepare for the next level, Hickman is busy finding ways to make a difference in the lives of others. With the help of his parents, Nolan Hickman, Sr. and his mother, Champale Hickman, the young basketball prodigy started a non-profit organization, called The Give Back Foundation, to provide children under- represented access to resources like books, sports equipment and basketball camps.
For Hickman, the idea of creating a foundation and giving back to his community didn’t happen overnight. The idea first crossed his mind when he was a kid who attended basketball camps himself.
“I remember looking around, seeing all these kids and wondering why I couldn’t do this,” Hickman recalls. “I remember saying to them and my friends who looked at me like ‘good man!’ And I thought to myself, looking at all the kids in the camp and thinking, I can do it, I can organize a camp.
Fast forward to today and Hickman not only kept his promise, but he did it in a very thoughtful and strategic manner.
His father says that Nolan, Jr. recognized he had a platform to make a difference from an early age, and his passion to help others runs deep in his heart.
“More than anything, Nolan loves his community,” says senior Hickman. “He loves Washington as a whole. He loves kids, they really drive him. Everything he has done is based on the fact that he wants children to have a chance to make their dreams come true, whatever they are.
In 2019, the Give Back Foundation raised $ 3,500.00 just to reach that amount next year, 2020, through the $ 5,000.00 COVID fundraiser that it donated to the Rotary Boys and Girls Club. . This year, the foundation celebrated Women’s Month with a coat drive, where it collected over 1,200 coats and donated to a local women’s shelter providing coats to over 60 families.
Rotary Boys & Girls Club athletic director Daryll Hennings, who has coached Hickman from Kindergarten to Grade 8, says Hickman is very focused and sincere in his efforts. He holds himself accountable for the results of his events and does not go through the door looking for documents.
“When Nolan asked me to use Rotary for the foundation, I was surprised,” says Hennings. “Because I get calls from people every other day asking me to partner with Rotary, but he didn’t ask me to do anything other than ‘can I use the gym.’ I mean the young man put it all in place, it was his thinking process, his vision.
Hickman’s efforts have not gone unnoticed in the community. It even caught the attention of former NBA star Jamal Crawford, who has a testimonial on the Give Back Foundation website that says, “I’ve never seen someone your age do what you do… And, so that you already understand the importance of giving back. I salute you!”
On the court, Hickman is a hard-working 18-year-old who continues to improve his game. A product of the Rotary Boys and Girls Club basketball machine since the age of three, Hickman, a point guard 6’3 ” tall, has positioned himself as one of the top basketball talents in the country. Graduated in 2021 from Wasatch Academy at Mt. Pleasant, Utah, a national basketball powerhouse and one of the nation’s top international boarding academies, he’s averaged nearly 19 points per game, 6.7 assists and 5.4 rebounds.
However, it was Hickman’s experience at Wasatch that really helped him prepare his vision for the future.
“It was difficult,” says Hickman. “The change of environment was difficult for me at first, but after I made my decision it helped me grow.”
“I didn’t really need all the distractions anyway,” added Hickman, who says he was able to focus on why he was there.
At Wasatch Academy, Hickman was able to showcase his basketball skills at the national level and proved he deserved more than his five-star ranking.
At the end of his high school career, Hickman was recruited by the nation’s top college basketball programs. Kentucky, UCLA, Gonzaga and many more. Initially, Hickman chose Kentucky, but as Kentucky underwent coaching changes including the loss of the coaches who recruited him from other programs. Hickman renounced his commitment to Kentucky and decided to commit to Gonzaga instead.
According to Hennings, Hickman has all the tools to be successful.
“The sky is the limit for him,” Hennings says. “The guy has a natural ability at home, since kindergarten, he has a head start. But he also has a work ethic, and a mental state, a tenacity, a courage that only the grown-ups have when it comes to basketball.
It is true. In retrospect, her life has only just begun, but her responsibility to her community and the next generation is evident in her actions. Some believe he has an “old soul”, as Hickman attests, it was his uncle who told him.
As for his foundation, Hickman is in charge. The foundation is his vision. He makes the decisions, provides the service, and is humble enough to ask for help when needed. His parents, who had no experience running or starting a non-profit organization, worked alongside their son and supported him every step of the way.
“As parents we’re really not that involved,” says Hickman, Sr. “Nolan is the face, he’s the director and the board. He’s on Zoom, he makes all the decisions, we just help him train him through his visions. “
When Hickman came up with the idea of starting a foundation, his family was into it. The family put their spirit and resources to work and the Give Back Foundation was born. And from her parents’ perspective, helping her navigate these new waters was not only the right thing to do, but they learned that there were her own challenges as well.
“The challenges we faced,” sighed Hickman, Sr. “We run a small business, so money is always a problem at the start, we didn’t want it to be the [reason to not move forward with his vision], if there is a will, there is a way. But we did it with the help of family, donations, and just by getting creative with our time. “
“More than anything… we wanted to make sure it was in compliance [with NCAA eligibility guidelines], where it didn’t look like he was taking the money, we just wanted to make sure he kept his eligibility, ”added Hickman, Sr.
While basketball is fun for him, Hickman realizes that it is also a means to an end.
Off the pitch, he knows he can make a difference, and he’s already paved the way to do so. He focuses on finding out how he can help his community. How can he make the life experience more enjoyable for children and let them know first-hand that possibilities are indeed possible. But more importantly, they know he’s there to help in any way he can.
“I’m here, I’m an open book, I’m reachable, I’m accessible, you can come talk to me,” Hickman says. “It is important that my community knows that I am here to help.
You can find more information about the Give Back Foundation online at