With guys like Gani Lawal, Jeremy Price and Trevor Mbakwe all on the floor at the same this weekend at the Riverfest tournament in Columbus, Ga., a lesser known big man took the spotlight away from the other three bigs. James Hickson, a 6-foot-8, 230-pound power forward Southwest Atlanta Christian (Ga.) High School stepped up to the plate and proved that he's ready to be one of the top big men in the Southeast.
Hickson, a class of 2007 prospect, lined up with Mbakwe, the No. 36 ranked sophomore in the nation for the Worldwide Renegades as they took on Lawal, the No. 14 ranked player in 2007 and Price, a huge young man that is on many must-watch lists for high-majors.
Hickson went right to work against the in-state big men. He was unstoppable in the paint and just too big, strong and quick to defend. Lawal and Price had no answers. Mbakwe enjoyed the show, too, he said after the game.
"I've never played with him before in my life," Mbakwe said. "It's going to be a fun summer."
For the second straight week, we had a chance to see his non-stop battery and his aggressive style of play inside the paint. On Friday night, Hickson was ready to send a message.
"Everybody was looking at those other guys and talking about them because I wasn't really on the radar," Hickson said. "So I wanted to come out here and prove that I can be one of the top players in the nation, too."
He's certainly made a good impression so far. How far on the radar does he see himself now?
"I'm up there but not how I want to be yet," Hickson said.
Stepping into the position left by Dwight Howard at Southwest Atlanta Christian, Hickson has had the chance to get the attention of some high-major schools this year. He said he's hearing from Auburn, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Georgetown and Virginia Tech.
There are a handful of schools he liked to hear from this summer.
"UNC, Gonzaga, Louisville and Cincinnati - I haven't heard from them but I'd like to," Hickson said.
It's up to him to prove himself in order to have the best of the best come calling. He knows that.
"It's a real big summer because I didn't play a lot last year because I was only in the ninth grade," Hickson said. "I just got in the gym and worked hard on my game. I have to prove to people."
With his ability to go hard to the hole, non-stop motor and raw potential, it's no secret that those guys usually rise to the top. But there is something a little different with Hickson. He likes to battle in the paint. He likes to find a body to bang on. He likes the challenge of playing against the best of the best.
"They human. They bleed like I bleed. They are no different than me," Hickson explained. "Why not go right at them and challenge them. I want to see how they react."