As Gonzaga’s starting point guard this season, Nolan Hickman was always going to have the spotlight on him. Following a lineage that includes Pangos, Perkins, Williams-Goss, Suggs, Nembhard, etc., a lot was expected of the sophomore from Seattle as he assumed the role of floor general this year. That is quite a lot to live up to, and I think Hickman did a solid job in not only dealing with the hype, but playing the role of point guard for one of the most potent offenses in the country.
Hickman’s lofty expectations were always going to be extremely difficult to live up to, and it’s unfair to say his season was a disappointment because of that. There were times were he was inconsistent, and turnovers were occasionally an issue, but you can’t be the primary ball handler for an offense that ends the year #1 on KenPom without doing your job more often than not.
Not only did Hickman do his job, he showed flashes of the talent that led many in Spokane to be high on him as a recruit. His 20 point, 8-9 shooting effort against Santa Clara was a clutch performance during a stretch of the season where the Zags needed every ounce of production to take home wins. He was also a focal point of the team’s win over Saint Mary’s in the WCC Championship, knocking down four threes and turning it over just once.
Nolan Hickman, in many ways, was a microcosm of Gonzaga’s season as a whole. He entered the year with the same lofty expectations the Zags usually have, something that was incredibly difficult to live up to this season. While we all want to see the Zags in the Final Four every year, that’s not realistic. In the same way, not every point guard is going to be an NBA-ready, All-American level talent. That doesn’t mean we can’t still appreciate them and recognize all the positives they brought to the court during the year.
Barring any massive surprises, Hickman will be handed the keys once again in 2023-24. He will take those reigns with some new faces around him, but his experience this season should do nothing but help him grow and mature heading into his junior year.