Photo: JaVonni Bickham, #42, celebrating the 2A Minnesota State championship. Photo – Courtesy of the Pioneer Press
The number 42 is all about transformation – think Jackie Robinson going to the Dodgers. To a lesser degree, there is a #42 out of Minneapolis that could help propel the ongoing transformation of Denver basketball forward under the guidance of Rodney Billups and his coaches Ricardo Patton, Dan Ficke, and Steve Snell.
Denver continues to draw players from the Twin Cities and JaVonni Bickham, who proudly wears number 42, could continue that trend if he accepts Denver’s offer to join the Pioneers.
Scout.com has the Minnehaha Academy Redhawks power forward as a top five 2018 Minnesota prospect with a 3-star rating. Bickham’s recruitment shows the Pioneers have elevated the type of athletes they are recruiting since Rodney Billups took the helm of the program. Bickham’s high school coach, Lance Johnson, likes to play fast, too, so the transition should be an easy one, “And it’s not only because they’re fast; they’re really athletic. There’s a few of them that dunk quite regularly, and we like to shoot fast, we don’t like to hold the ball. So I think it is more fun to watch, personally.” And Bickham, along with his star high school running mate Jalen Suggs, trigger the break.
In the Twin Cities Pioneer Press, JaVonni Bickham was identified as one of his team’s best rebounders and “capable of collecting a board and immediately pushing the ball up the court”, according to coach Johnson. Bickham is a 6-foot-7, 230-pound power forward with the ball handling skills of a guard. While Bickham is a big player, he can run the court in the Redhawks fast paced offense – a rare quality for a player his size.
And Bickham is a winner. The Redhawks won their first 2A Minnesota state title last season and are odds-on-favorites to repeat this year. They finished last season 26-5.
With offers from Memphis, UTEP, New Mexico, and FIU, he is gaining national interest. But Denver must be considered a strong possibility.
Why Denver for Bickham? First and foremost, the academics at DU are a perfect fit for Bickham who is coming from one of the best and most challenging private schools in Minneapolis – Minnehaha Academy. He would excel at DU with the small class size and a great city environment, similar to the Twin Cities. Also, a number of other students and athletes from Minneapolis have matriculated to DU and found great success here – along with great weather and a stunning campus. From a basketball standpoint, Bickham’s game is a perfect fit for the Pioneers. Denver is adding size, rebounding, and speed – all of which Bickham delivers. Under DU’s coaching staff, he would be going into a system that will leverage his skills and allow him to take his game to the next level. And, of course, he would play an important role building on the basketball success started under Rodney Billups and his staff.
We will keep you advised of Bickham’s decision and school of choice.