BARDSTOWN, Ky. – When Jordan Hickman elected to continue his collegiate basketball career by transferring to Vincennes University for his sophomore season after spending his freshman campaign at Southeastern Illinois College in Harrisburg, IL, he was simply doing what had defined the 6-2 guard throughout his upbringing.
He was staying loyal, displaying an impressively strong work ethic and looking to be successful through honest, legitimate efforts to do what was not only expected but right in every sense of the word. Following his VU tenure, Hickman transferred to Indiana Tech to continue his playing career and earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration so he could launch that life he had looked to build with the help of being one of his teams’ toughest competitors and prime contributors at each step along the way.
But the 24-year-old Hickman’s life ended Sunday when he and two friends from his native Bardstown, KY, were fatally injured in a head-on collision in Nelson County, KY. The accident is still under investigation, but Kentucky State Police said Hickman’s car collided with a pickup truck and all three occupants of the car were pronounced dead at the scene.
Funeral services for all three men will be held together as a final tribute to their friendship. The funeral will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Parkway Baptist Church in Bardstown.
Hickman, SIC teammate and close friend Charles Ashford and incoming freshman Lleon Tillman transferred to VU at the same time coach Todd Franklin accepted the Trailblazers job and departed from SIC. Hickman had been the sixth man on SIC’s 2009-10 eighth place team at the NJCAA National Championship Tournament. He had made an impact on everyone who knew him because of toughness and maturity as a player that belied his years.
In fact, at the onset of the 2010-11 VU Men’s Basketball season, Franklin gave an individual assessment of each player on his initial Trailblazer squad. When he came to Hickman, he stated: “has excellent hops, good toughness and a good feel for the game. He also has an improving 3-point shot…”
Then, the coach summed up Hickman in two heartfelt words: “Great kid!”
With Ashford and others handling most of the scoring duties, Hickman nearly always received the assignment of tough defensive match-ups and sometimes took on larger opponents at the defensive end while contributing to the Trailblazers where he could on the boards. He averaged 7 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game as he and Ashford started all 31 games for the 18-13 Trailblazers in 2010-11.
That lone season at VU impressed Indiana Tech and other programs enough to prompt offers for Hickman to continue his career at the next level and Hickman seized the opportunity with the Warriors. In 2011-12, he played in 30 games (starting 29) and earned a Third-Team All-WHAC selection while being named to the WHAC All-Newcomer Team. Hickman finished as the team's third leading scorer at 9.8 ppg and was also the team's top 3-point shooter. He scored a season-high 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds against Michigan-Dearborn.
The traits that set Hickman apart from others and drew raves from Franklin were on full display at Indiana Tech. Hickman was named to the WHAC Champions of Character Team and the WHAC All-Academic Team following his first Warriors season.
In his senior season at Indiana Tech, Hickman upped his scoring average to 10.7 ppg.
Hickman’s traits as a leader, winner, hard worker, highly dependable person and go-to guy remain at the forefront of Franklin’s thoughts yet today. The coach’s admiration showed through as he prepared to head to Bardstown to pay his final respects to his fallen friend and former defensive stopper, as well as the Hickman family.
“I’m not just saying this because of what has happened; Jordan was one of my all-time favorite players and his family was one of my all-time favorites,” Franklin said with a sullen tone. “It’s a very, very sad time for the ‘basketball family’ we’ve made here at VU and at Southeastern (Illinois College) because we’ve stayed closely connected to people like Jordan and his family…we are hurting badly.”
Franklin went on to laud Hickman as a “great player, a great student and a greater person … he went on from here at VU to have a nice career at Indiana Tech where he got his degree, he was working and being a good member of society.
“Jordan will always be remembered by everyone who knew him,” he added.