Why OU football commit Jaden Nickens might be playing his final high school games in Oklahom

Why OU football commit Jaden Nickens might be playing his final high school games in Oklahom

Nickens’ father says the plan is for the four-star football recruit to play his senior season of high school out of state.

Jenni Carlson

By Jenni Carlson

| Mar 7, 2024, 7:00am CST

Jenni Carlson

By Jenni Carlson

Mar 7, 2024, 7:00am CST

Douglass opens play at the state basketball tournament at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

Prime time.

Seems fitting.

And not just because the Trojans are the defending Class 4A boys champs. 

Jaden Nickens, arguably the best prep athlete in the state, might be playing some of his final high school games on Oklahoma soil. The junior is committed to playing football at OU, so he’s likely to return, but there’s a good chance he’s headed out of state for his final high school football season and won’t play another basketball season.

Nate Jones, Nickens’ father, told Sellout Crowd this week that Nickens plans to attend IMG or another high-level college-prep program for his senior football season.

It was the kind of move some suspected after Nickens transferred from Millwood to Douglass in December. After spending seven years at Douglass where his dad was a basketball coach before moving to Millwood as a freshman, Nickens transferred back to Douglass to play with some of his longtime friends. 

While the long-proud Douglass basketball program has been resurrected in recent years by coach Steven Alexander, the Douglass football program has struggled to win games, much less compete for championships for the past decade.

But Nickens isn’t likely to play football for the Trojans.

Nickens’ father said his son plans to leave Oklahoma for a college-prep program after school ends in May so he can take summer classes. He plans to graduate high school in December and enroll early at OU.

That means if you want to see Nickens play in person before he hits the college level, time is short.

If you can get to State Fair Arena to watch Nickens, I highly recommend it.

(Quick scheduling note: if Douglass wins Thursday night, it would play in the semifinals at 6 p.m. Friday. The Class 4A finals are set for 5 p.m. Saturday.)

Nickens is one of the most dynamic athletes the state has ever seen. Fast. Smooth. Elusive. Powerful. Put all of that into a 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame, and you’ve got a young man who can do some pretty amazing things on both the football field and the basketball court.

He helped Millwood make the state finals in football the past two seasons — and without him this past fall, the Falcons wouldn’t have gotten there.

In the semifinals against Keifer, Millwood found itself in dire straits. It gave up a touchdown with only 12 seconds remaining to give Keifer a one-point lead. But Nickens was confident about Millwood’s chances.

“I got y’all, I got y’all,” he told his teammates on the sidelines. “Don’t worry.”

He fielded the ensuing kickoff at the 23-yard line, cut across the field, zipped through two converging defenders and zoomed down the far sideline. A blocker out front gave Nickens just enough cover, and he returned the kickoff for a 77-yard touchdown as time expired.

A walk-off kickoff return for the win.

The rarity of such a thing is staggering.

But Nickens has the skills to do it. That’s why he got offered scholarships by everyone from OU to Texas A&M, Oklahoma State to Missouri. (Why the four-star prospect is still getting offers even now; South Carolina extended one this past weekend.)

The thing that puts him in the discussion for the state’s most dynamic prep athlete ever, though, is the fact that he’s as good on the basketball court as the football field. He has scholarship offers from Power Five basketball programs, too. OSU. Auburn. Ole Miss. 

And it’s easy to see why.

There was a sequence during the state tournament a year ago, when Nickens was still at Millwood, that dropped jaws and raised eyebrows. In a game against Crooked Oak, Nickens almost single-handedly squashed a Crooked Oak run by first knocking down an off-the-dribble 3-pointer, then throwing down a dunk on a fastbreak. He capped the sequence with a stop-and-pop drive down the lane that ended with a nifty jumper over a smaller defender.

All the skills and all the athleticism was on display.

The same is anticipated when Nickens and his Douglass teammates hit the hardwood Thursday evening at State Fair Arena.

The show promises to be worth seeing, but if all goes as Nickens plans, you just won’t be able to see it much longer here in Oklahoma.

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Jenni Carlson is a columnist with the Sellout Crowd network. Follow her on Twitter at @JenniCarlson_OK. Email [email protected].

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