By Aaron Allen, The Seattle Medium
Nolan Hickman, Jr. is not your typical high school basketball star. Born and raised in Seattle, Hickman, one of the top high school basketball recruits in the country and a McDonald’s All-American, is more than X’s and O’s on the basketball court, he is a thinker, a doer and a visionary.
But what is unique about this rising athletic star is his vision. At the age of 18, and knowing the influence he has established, when you ask Hickman about what others find to be the most important aspect that he prides himself on, people such as his father replies, “accessibility to the community and children.”
While most young student athletes are working on their grades and their athletic skills to help prepare themselves 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 mother, Champale Hickman, the young basketball prodigy launched a non-profit organization, called The Give Back Foundation, in order to provide under-represented children with access to resources like books, athletic gear and basketball camps.
For Hickman, the thought of establishing a foundation and giving back to his community did not happen overnight. The thought first crossed his mind when he was a kid attending basketball camps himself.
“I remember looking around and seeing all these kids and wondering why can’t I do this,” recalls Hickman. “I remember telling my friends and them looking at me like, ‘right man!’ And I thought to myself, looking around at all the kids in the camp and thinking, I can do this, I can put on a camp.”
Fast forward to today and Hickman has not only made good on his promise, but he has done so in a very thoughtful and strategic way.
His father says Nolan, Jr. recognized that he had a platform to make a difference at an early age, and his passion to help others is deeply embedded in his heart.
“More than anything Nolan loves his community,” says the senior Hickman. “He loves Washington as a whole. He loves kids, they really drive him. Everything he’s done it’s been based off that he wants to see kids have a chance at their dreams, whatever that may be.”
In 2019, The Give Back Foundation raised $3,500.00 only to best that amount the next year, 2020, during COVID raising $5,000.00 which he donated to the Rotary Boys and Girls Club. This year, the foundation celebrated Women’s Month with a coat drive, where they collected more than 1,200 coats and made donations to a local women’s shelter providing coats to over 60 families.
Rotary Boys & Girls Club Athletic Director Daryll Hennings, who coached Hickman from kindergarten through eighth grade, says that Hickman is very focused and sincere with his efforts. He holds himself accountable to the outcomes of his events, and doesn’t come through the door looking for handouts.
“When Nolan approached me about using Rotary for the foundation I was taken aback,” says Hennings. “Because I get calls from people every other day asking 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 this whole thing in place, it was his thought process, his vision.”
Hickman’s efforts have not gone unnoticed in the community. He has even caught the attention of former NBA star Jamal Crawford, who has a testimonial on The Give Back Foundation’s Website that says, “I’ve never seen someone your age do what you are doing…And, for you to already understand the importance of giving back. I salute you!”
On the court, Hickman is a hardworking 18-year-old that continues to improve his game. A product of the Rotary Boys and Girls Club basketball machine since the age of three Hickman, a 6’3” point guard, has positioned himself as one of the top basketball talents in the country. A 2021 graduate of Wasatch Academy in Mt. Pleasant, Utah, a national basketball powerhouse and one of the nation’s top international boarding academies, he averaged close to 19 points a game, 6.7 assist and 5.4 rebounds.
However, it was Hickman’s experience at Wasatch that really helped him prepare for his vision of the future.
“It was tough,” says Hickman. “The environment change was hard on me at first but after realizing my decision it helped me grow.”
“I didn’t really need all of the distractions anyways,” added Hickman, who says that he was able to focus on why he was there.
At Wasatch Academy, Hickman was able to highlight his basketball skills on a national level and proved that he was more than deserving of his five-star ranking.
Upon finishing his high school career, Hickman was recruited by the top college basketball programs in the country. Kentucky, UCLA, Gonzaga and host of others. Initially Hickman chose Kentucky but as Kentucky went through some coaching changes, including losing the coaches that recruited him to other programs. Hickman backed away from his commitment to Kentucky and decided to commit to Gonzaga instead.
According to Hennings, Hickman has all the tools to succeed.
“The sky is the limit for him,” says Hennings. “The dude has a natural ability about him, since kindergarten he’s been ahead of the curve. But he also has a work ethic, and a mental state, a toughness, a fortitude that only the great ones have as far as basketball is concerned.”
It is true. In retrospect his life is just beginning yet his responsibility to his community and the next generation is evident in his actions. Some believe him to possess an “ol soul” as Hickman attests is uncle used to say to him.
When it comes to his foundation, Hickman is in charge. The foundation is his vision. He makes the decisions, delivers the service and is humble enough to ask for help when needed. His parents, who had no previous experience in running or establishing a non-profit organization, worked beside and supported their son every step of the way.
“As parents we are really not that involved,” says Hickman, Sr. “Nolan is the face, he is the director and the board. He is on Zoom, he makes all the decisions, we just help coach him through what his visions are.”
When Hickman came up with the idea of starting a foundation, his family was all in. The family put their minds and resources to work and The Give Back Foundation was born. And from his parent’s perspective helping him navigate these new waters was not only the right thing to do but they learned it also had its own challenges.
“The challenges we faced,” sighed Hickman, Sr. “We run a small business so money is always an issue in the beginning, we didn’t want that to be the [reason to not move forward with his vision], if there is a will there’s a way. But we made it happen with help from family, donations and just being creative with our time.”
“More than anything… we wanted to make sure he was in compliance [with NCAA eligibility guidelines], where it didn’t seem like he was taking 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 court he knows he can make a difference, and he has already laid the groundwork to do it. He centers himself by figuring out how he can help his community. How can he make the experience of life more enjoyable for children, and to let them know first-hand that possibilities are indeed possible. But more importantly that they know that he is here to help in any way he can.
“I am here, I am an open book, I’m reachable, I’m accessible, you can come and talk to me,” says Hickman. “It is important that my community knows that I am here to help.”
You can find out more information about The Give Back Foundation online at