Designated shooter. The term carries both a positive and negative connotation, and in truth players fitting that description do tend to play a high risk, high reward style.
His ascent began during his junior season in 2011-12. Playing for Elizabeth (N.J.) St. Patrick, Nickens proved to be a dynamite shooter and after a quiet sophomore year stepped into his own. At events such as the City of Palms Classic, he buried long jumpers and established his perpetuating identity as a deep threat.
By his rising senior summer, in 2012, he had taken visits to VCU, St. Joe's, Seton Hall and Penn State. That was the point at which he also re-classified to the 2014 crop and transferred to Westtown (Pa.) School.
He opened the 2013 travel season hot, demonstrating continued excellence from behind the arc at April's Pitt Jam Fest event. His spring live period exploits drew offers from Oregon State, Temple, Providence, Seton Hall, St. Joe's, VCU, Dayton, Richmond, Creighton, Wake Forest, St. John's and Oklahoma.
But despite his national interest, Nickens' heart never left the East Coast. He committed to Maryland this past June and gave the Terrapins their third talented, regional commitment in the current cycle.
In case it wasn't obvious, jump shooting is and likely always will remain Nickens' game. He isn't a volume shooter, he's a pure shooter, and the difference manifests on the court. He's comfortable blending in quietly for long stretches and then unleashing a torrent of smooth, accurate threes.
He's also at ease from numerous angles. Many players — even other established shooters — struggle from the corners, but Nickens is just as dangerous from the pockets as he is from the top of the key. He doesn't need to dribble his way into rhythm and has a fairly quick release, so his offense should be ready to go out of the box for Maryland.
Meanwhile, he also possesses solid height (6-6) for the wing and has long arms. His handle is fine for wing forward and he's a decent straight-up leaper as well. Defensively, he should develop into an acceptable presence for a defense-minded program.
Nickens absolutely must gain strength. He can be pushed around very easily and at times gives up too many easy baskets and rebounds for that reason. He has the type of wispy frame that may not enable him to add that weight quickly, and he must be careful how he adds it in order to avoid the flexibility-impairing bulk that afflicted former Terp Exree Hipp upon his substantial weight gain two decades ago.
He also isn't a great athlete and thus doesn't bring a significant slashing component to the court, making his contributions somewhat all-or-nothing. That said, it must be noted that he has improved his mid-level shooting and at least can score from those areas in structured settings.
Maryland is thrilled to have a shooter of Nickens' caliber on his way to campus. The interior strength posed by top Big Ten teams likely will force the club's offense away from the paint more than it may prefer, and that's where having a perimeter destroyer factors into play.
The Terps have upgraded their perimeter firepower significantly in this class, but it's Nickens who boasts the most established credentials from deep. Limitations aside, look for him to play a critical role for the program over the next four seasons.