Three-star 2017 guard Alec Hickman was one of the big risers this summer on the AAU circuit with Team Eleate, and that's no accident. His AAU coach -- Marvin Lea -- says that the new California commit began to assert himself more this year, and the Bears coaches noticed.
"I had him for the last four years, since eighth, ninth grade, so I've had him for a while," says Lea. "All the practice, and all the work, he went from 5-9 to 6-3 within the last year and a half, so when that 6-3 frame came, he just knew how to use it this year, and that's what made the difference. He knows how to use it now. He can raise up, pull up, and he's just confident in his body, now. That's what the big difference was."
At 6-foot-4, 170 pounds, Hickman fits the mold of big point guards Cal has been after, including 2017 five-star Troy Brown, who is visiting unofficially this weekend.
"He's a long, long guard, who flew under the radar early, but he's been just great. He had a good summer," says Lea.
Originally a 2016 prospect, Hickman will reclassify to 2017, and spend a year at a prep school.
Jones had acutally coached Lea, while both were at Pepperdine, but the connection was more of a happy accident than the root of Hickman's recruitment.
"I actually played for Wyking, when he was a student coach at Pepperdine, but it wasn't Wyking who was talking to him, initially; the stars kind of aligned," Lea says. "Wyking had just barely gotten there. It was Yanni who started watching him, and then, I was like, 'My man Wyking is over there.'"
Lea, Hickman and Hickman's parents visited in late August, and three weeks later, Hickman had his Cal offer on Sept. 19. That visit showed them everything they needed to know about the Bears, and about head coach Cuonzo Martin.
"As soon as I got on campus, I really liked the campus from the start. Meeting the coaches and the head coach, it was really a great trip," Hickman says. "My parents, they definitely love it. They loved it from the very beginning, since we met coach Cuonzo, and they're all for it. I definitely just like the way that they play. I really like their style of play."
"I just felt I was sending him to the person, instead of just to a coach," Lea says. "[Martin] is a good person, and it looks like he has a vision. He knows what's going on, and he likes what he likes. Alec's on Scout.com, but he's not on ESPN.com, or other sites, but Cuonzo, he liked him. His staff liked him, and he trusts his staff. I could tell that he has a vision. He knows what he wants, and that's what I like. I like somebody who knows what they want, and they're doing it their way."
Within days of securing his offer, Hickman got in touch with a longtime friend who knows just a little bit about Berkeley.
"I do know one of the players -- Jordan Mathews. We go way back. He's from out where they used to live, by us, so I've known him for a while," says Hickman. "We didn't start talking for a while, but I feel like just him being there is a pretty cool thing. He said he loves it. The last time I talked to him, around when I got the offer, he said he really loves it, and that was really early on. He loves everything about Cal."
When the time came, Hickman was secure in his decision.
"I was thinking about it, me, my family, a lot of people close to me, my AAU coach, and we thought this was the best decision for me," Hickman says.
While Hickman is at a prep school, he wants to improve on various aspects of his game, as the Bears see him as a point guard -- a position of need, given that Sam Singer and Tyrone Wallace will be gone by the time Hickman gets on campus.
"The body's going to come within the next year and a half," Lea says. "He's just got to keep improving his aggressiveness, with his mouth, being a leader, getting guys going and always being assertive. He's smooth and quiet, but he's got to be more firm, more assertive. He liked to wait until late in the game, but this summer, when he was assertive, that's why he got what he wanted. We talked every day, he worked with me every day, and sometimes he'd work out three times a day. He knew what was at stake. He was going to the hole more, after he used to rely on that jump shot. He was going to the hole more, this summer. If he keeps mixing that up, and keeps realizing that he's one of the few kids who can dribble, shoot, pass and dunk, that's a lot."
"I think the strongest part of my game is my ability to score the ball," says Hickman. "I can score in many different ways, and I'm a leader on the court. Whether it's scoring, whether it's getting assists, I'm a multi-threat whenever I'm on the court."