UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - There are a lot of young people in America today that
grew up in a household with active U.S. military personnel. Many of those men
and women also dream of serving the United States, just like Lady Lion Mia
Nickson was born in Germany while her parents were stationed there as members of the United States Armed Forces. Though she doesn't remember much from her parent's deployment in Germany, she does remember bouncing around the east coast.
During her childhood, she spent time moving up and down the Atlantic Coast as her parents got re-stationed. She laid roots in Maryland, South Carolina and Virginia, while also spending time living with her grandmother, before signing with Boston College of the Atlantic Coast Conference out of high school.
"My mom and dad were both in the Army," said Nickson. "When both of my parents were [deployed] in Saudi Arabia I went to live with my grandmother for a year and [my uncle] was active in the Army Reserves. I have a lot of military background in my family."
That military background laid the framework for Nickson and how she would approach and react to life as a college basketball player.
That structure and maturity began at a young age for Nickson, who during at times was on her own while her parents were at work. It was probably hard at the time, but Nickson now admits that her parent's requests to keep the house in order, not run up a the phone bill and stay out of the junk food are major reasons that she was able to adjust to life as a student-athlete.
"I work well when I have structure," said Nickson, "and college basketball is just like that. I know a lot of freshmen that come in and say, 'They're taking over my life. I don't have any time to anything I want to do.' But it was an easier transition for me because I was used to that structure."
She doesn't want anyone to think that she had it tough growing up. Nickson enjoyed a typical childhood, riding bikes, hanging out with other kids in the neighborhood and, of course, playing basketball.
As typical as those things are, Nickson also learned to adapt to different atmospheres as he parents shuffled around the east coast. That ability to adapt would be one that served Nickson well in the next part of her life.
Now a senior for the Lady Lions, Nickson was once a wide-eyed freshman walking the campus of Boston College, but, like her parents, that wouldn't be her final destination. After averaging 1.6 points and 2.0 rebounds in just over seven minutes a game with the Eagles in 2008-09 she would relocate to Happy Valley.
"The first couple of weeks (at Penn State) were different," said Nickson, "because when you're a freshman and you're new to campus there's freshman orientation, so everybody and all of the student-athletes are together."
Technically a sophomore upon her arrival at Penn State, Nickson was unsure whether to run with the freshman class or buddy up with the sophomores.
Luckily for her, the team was such a close knit group that she was never forced to make that choice.
After sitting out the 2009-10 season due to the NCAA transfer rules, Nickson stepped onto the floor and quickly became a leader. The communications, arts and sciences major - a degree she graduated with in August 2012 - is looked at as a good listener by her teammates and she thinks that knowing why people react the way they do helps her defuse tough situations as easily as she grabs a rebound.
"(My major) helps me understand why people do what they do and say the things that they say," said Nickson. "It's about knowing why people react the way they do. When you can do that everyone's frustration level comes down a little bit. I's more about working together rather than just pointing fingers."
As her senior season winds down, the young girl who grew up surrounded by those that vow to protect this country is now a woman who has dreams of doing the same.
"I am really interested in being a part of the armed services and I have had conversations with people about it," Nickson said.
The decision of which branch will probably come down to how she can best help people, not only domestically, but on foreign soil, as well.
"One of the things I found interesting were the relief efforts ...I think that's what I want to do" she said. "I've always wanted to help people and I never really had the opportunity to do things like helping aid people after a natural disaster. I'm hoping to help with relief efforts first and then maybe work behind a desk."
It's not odd to hear her say that helping others is something she is interested in. Nickson is the same way on the hardwood. She just wants to lend a hand; whether that be grabbing a rebound to set up a teammate or lending a hand to a fellow student.
After moving up and down the Atlantic Coast as a youth, Nickson gave up the Atlantic Coast Conference to join Penn State in the Big Ten. Now the aspiring do-gooder looks like she is well on her way to doing BIG things.