Westtown School shooting guard Jared Nickens isn’t just a strong shooter. (Mandatory Credit: Josh Verlin/City of Basketball Love)
On Saturday, I traveled down to the Philadelphia suburb of Rosemont to see Maryland 2014 commits Jared Nickens (Westtown School) and Trayvon Reed (Life Center Academy). Westtown (PA) was facing Life Center Academy (NJ) in the Kobe Bryant Classic, which pitted the two future Terrapin teammates against one another. I did some scouting of Nickens and Reed, along with 2015 targets Georgios Papagiannis (C, Westtown) and Malik Ellison (G, Life Center Academy). I’ll have scouting reports on Reed, Papagiannis, and Ellison in the coming days. First up is Nickens, who I had a chance to speak with after Westtown’s 71-61 victory over Life Center Academy.
Despite getting to a slow start in the Westtown’s 71-61 win over Life Center Academy on Saturday, Maryland commit Jared Nickens showed just how talented he is.
Nickens only recorded five points in the first half, but finished strong with 19 points, seven rebounds, and four steals.
“I came on strong in the second half,” Nickens said. “In the beginning, I just focused on rebounding since my offense wasn’t on yet. I tried to do other things to keep the lead and at the end of the day we got the win.”
Even when he isn’t impacting the game by scoring the basketball, the Westtown star can still be productive. Nickens possesses tremendous size at 6’6, which makes him a stalwart on the glass.
While playing at St. Patrick’s (NJ) during the early part of his high career, the future Terrapin was a one-dimensional player. Nickens would camp out beyond the arc and drill shots from long-range when he had the opportunity. That was the majority of his game at that point.
However, since arriving at Westtown, the East Coast swingman has looked to attack more often. Nickens now has the ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the rim. With Nickens attacking more, that leaves some of his teammates open and allows him to potentially draw contact.
“I’ve been trying not to take the first open shot,” Nickens told TerrapinStationMD. ” I just have to try to get to the foul line more.”
Nickens also stated that he is working on his strength and his ball-handling as he moved forward during his senior high school season.
Obviously he’s not known for his assist numbers, but Nickens is a better passer than many give him credit for. For example, he was leading a Westtown fastbreak on Saturday and dished out a beautiful one-handed bounce pass to one of his teammates that resulted in an easy layup. The Westtown senior probably won’t be handling the ball a ton in the Maryland offense, but that is always a good asset to have in your game.
Even though Nickens has added several new levels to his game, his shooting ability remains far and away his strongest asset.
Despite missing several shots to start off the game, Nickens was able to get into a flow as it progressed. He has a quick trigger, which will definitely pay dividends at the collegiate level. His three-point shot has great form and looks as natural and fluid as any around. Nickens takes a great deal of shots from beyond the arc, but that mainly has to do with the fact that he is clearly the best perimeter player that Westtown has to offer.
He has aided by his sophomore teammate Jair Bolden, who scored 22 points and was named the team MVP of the Kobe Bryant Classic. Bolden was in control during the entire game and really opened things up for Nickens. There could be similar situations when Nickens is at Maryland because he could be playing with guards such as Dez Wells, Nick Faust, and fellow 2014 commit Romelo Trimble.
As far how he’ll fit in at Maryland, Nickens could be a long-distance threat as a freshman and could play substantial minutes.
“Coach Turgeon showed me film about their offense,” Nickens said. “They play a four-out, one-in offense. I feel that I gel in pretty well on the perimeter.”
Nickens could see himself in the mold of a wing player when he arrives in College Park. The senior guard has the size and strength to defend any opposing guard that is on the floor. Much like Faust, he comes in with the reputation of a shooter in addition to being a solid defender. For a coach like Turgeon who preaches defensive intensity, that’s a huge key to playing time during his freshman campaign.
NOTES — While there were many Maryland storylines present in Saturday’s contest, the largest was the battle of two of the Terrapins’ 2014 commits in Nickens and Life Center Academy big man Trayvon Reed.
“It was fun. He’s very athletic and blocks a lot of shots. It should be fun playing with him next year. I know that if I miss a shot, he’ll get the rebound.”
Both got off to slow starts, but were able to produce more as the game went on. Reed finished with six points, nine rebounds, and a block.