October 12, 2006

J.J. Hickson makes his choice

And then there was one. After sorting through interest and offers from more than 20 schools, J.J. Hickson is finally a committed player. The five-star forward from Wheeler High School in Marietta, Ga., will announce today that he will play his college basketball at N.C. State. A press conference is schedule for 4 p.m. Eastern today at Hickson's school.

Hickson, the No. 15 ranked player in the class of 2007, said his decision came down to his relationship with new N.C. State head coach Sidney Lowe.

"The main thing was my relationship with him. He has really taught me how to conduct myself and to be professional in everything that I do. That was the difference-maker," Hickson told Rivals.com late Wednesday an exclusive interview. "It was really 50-50 (between Tennessee and N.C. State). It was the hardest decision I've had to make. But in the end, I felt like I was really the only player that they needed and that they were missing.

"We just talked on the phone and he didn't rush in and say, 'We need you, we need you. You are our man.' He got to know me as a person and not just a basketball player. In fact, I don't think he offered me a scholarship until three weeks after we started talking. He got to know me real well. I kind of look at him like my big brother or a father figure."

For Lowe, Hickson is the star Wolfpack fans have been waiting for on the recruiting front. With a front line that needs a spark, Hickson said he knows the expectations for him as a freshman will be high.

"To me, there is no pressure. I want to do something that I wanted to do and not be forced into something. To me, going there is no big deal. I'm going to go in and play my game and get some wins," Hickson said.

"I want to be a leader and make my own footprints instead of stepping into someone else's. I hope others will follow. I want to help them restore their program and win some championships."

Lowe's experience in the NBA was a major factor in his decision, Hickson said.

"He knows what it takes to get there because he has been there. It's all about hard work," Hickson said. "He knows the drills and we've had a couple of talks about how he'll use me. He said he has never coached in college, so everything he does will be pro sets. There will be a lot of spacing that will allow me to do what I do."

N.C. State needs immediate help down low, and Hickson feels like he can be the player to help spark the front line from Day One.

"There is a big gap (down low) at N.C. State, and I feel like I need to be the guy that can put the team on my back," he said.

Hickson picked N.C. State over Tennessee. He also considered Florida and Georgetown. At one point, Hickson had more than 20 offers - all from schools in power conferences.

With the decision behind him, Hickson said he can now focus on winning a state championship - a task that didn't happen last year despite a tremendous team and a deep run into the playoffs. His other goal is being named a McDonald's All-American.

Hickson is the second player to commit to the Wolfpack in the class of 2007. He joins North Carolina native Johnny Thomas, a three-star forward from Greensboro.


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