One of the greatest basketball players to ever play in the Joliet area, Jeff Hickman, passed away Saturday at the age of 69.
The 1968 Lockport graduate earned All-American, All-State and Chicago-Area Player of the Year awards after his senior year in which Lockport had its winningest season to date, going 28-2. Lockport lost, 70-58, to eventual state champion Evanston in a supersectional.
Hickman’s 796 points and 26.5 points a game scoring average in the 1967-68 season still are school records. He had a three-year career total of 1,729 points, a 20.6 scoring average and scored 44 points in a sectional title win over Thornton in 1968. He led Lockport in scoring each of his three varsity seasons.
Hickman became just the second Porter to lead his team in scoring for three-straight years, equalling the accomplishment set by Maury Adamson from 1930-31 to 1932-33.
Hickman played in 84 games with the Porters. He played under Bill Connors for a year and Bob Basarich for two seasons, during which time the program had a 72-12 record.
He also was one of the school’s leading rebounders with 862, an average of 10.3 a game. He finished three rebounds behind Bill Ford and finished his career second in rebounds, but now ranks fourth behind Ellis Files and Scott Parzych.
He was selected as the top player in the Illini-Eight Conference in 1967 and 1968 and helped lead the Porters to consecutive title game appearances at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament, leading the Porters to their second title in the tournament in 1967.
After Hickman’s playing days at Lockport, Hickman competed for parts of two seasons at the University of Houston for Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame coach Guy Lewis. He joined a Cougars program that had consecutive Final Four losses to eventual national champion UCLA, but also stunned the Bruins in an historic 1968 game before more than 50,000 fans at the Astrodome that was the first nationally televised regular season college game.
In Hickman’s only full season in 1969-70 playing on a 25-5 team, he scored 309 points for a 12.3 average and in an abbreviated 1970-71 campaign, he scored 176 points for a 13.5 average. Unfortunately, his promising career was cut short because of injury.
Hickman was inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1973, joining Joliet native and Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer George Mikan as the first two individuals from Will County to be enshrined in the IBCA Hall of Fame. In 2004, he was inducted into the Joliet Area Sports Hall of Fame.
Arrangements still were pending Tuesday.