J.J. Hickson knows what's at stake. He could be one of the highest rated inside players in the Class of 2007. Scout.com lists him as a Top 20 prospect heading into the spring. Last weekend at The Real Deal On The Hill in Fayetteville he played well.
Good enough to break the Top 10? No, but he was good. The thing with Hickson is that he's capable of much more. He's approaching the spring as if he's on a mission. He'd like to move into the elite of the elite status.
"I feel like I'm the one to do it," Hickson said of possibly making a move into the Top 10. "I'm going at everyone who is ranked ahead of me to try and get that top spot."
Coming off a junior season where he averaged 19 points, 9 rebounds and blocked 78 shots, Hickson is correct in having big expectations. At nearly 6-foot-9, he's a load. He's long, moves well and gets himself to the line. To crack that Top 10 status would take some consistently dominating efforts on the circuit; nothing he isn't fully capable of doing by the way.
The big fella saw his game improve from his sophomore to his junior season and there's no arguing the advances. Plus, his Wheeler team was a state semifinalist in the Peach State.
"I feel I came a long way," Hickson said. "I didn't luck into this. I've been working hard in the gym. It feels good to see where I can from last year to this year. I watch tapes from last year and my game is different. My demeanor on the court, the way I play, I'm not lackadaisical."
Hickson said that in looking back at his game he realized that in order to improve the motivation had to come from within. "I realized its hard work to get to the next level and get where you need to go. People just don't go to the next level playing the game. You have to work hard.
"Even though someone might say I'm this good everyone might have their different opinions. I'm trying to get everyone to have the same opinion of me because I know what I can do."
Hickson's college list has been a closely guarded secret. He always mentions the ACC, Big East and SEC. His AAU coach last weekend said that Illinois, Ohio State, North Carolina, Connecticut and Arizona were on him hard but there are more.
"Right now I should come up with a list after Kingwood and the King James tournament. The major thing is my relationship with the coaches and then after that it'll be how I fit in with the program."
During April, Hickson will be peeking into the stands, checking out who's checking him out. "I think that when a head coach comes out he wants to see you personally. He doesn't want to hear what anybody else says."