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Celebration of Willie Nicklin's life set for Aug. 14 at Topeka High



Family and friends will gather at 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 14, in the Topeka High gymnasium to celebrate the life of Trojan basketball coaching legend Willie Nicklin, who passed away on Dec. 10, 2020 at the age of the 92.

Attendees are asked to enter the gymnasium through the west doors off Western Avenue.

WillieNicklinA celebration of the life of Topeka High coaching legend Willie Nicklin, who passed away in 2020, will be held in the THS gymnasium on Aug. 14. [Submitted]

Nicklin taught and coached at Topeka High from 1965 to 1991, taking over as the Trojans’ head coach in 1970 and leading High to state titles in ‘73 and ‘86.

Nicklin registered 501 wins in his coaching career (all levels) and his teams won 12 I-70 League championships. Topeka High’s basketball court is named in Nicklin’s honor.

Nicklin was known as a strict disciplinarian, which Professional Bowlers Association Hall of Famer Chris Barnes, who played on the Trojans’ 86 championship team, remembers well.

“I think it helped me to be an athlete and maybe more importantly to have been with a coach that made everybody so accountable,” Barnes told The Topeka Capital-Journal in a 2017 interview. “There was no skipping a beat and saying, “Oh, I didn’t mean to.′ That didn’t cut much weight with Willie. You were still running those big bleachers whether you liked it or not.

“I had a lot of great coaches along the way but most of them were nice guys. Willie made you accountable. You loved him at the end but you didn’t really like him too much along the way sometimes. But the accountability part was needed where I was at in my life as a teenager then. He had a lot to do with my success afterwards.’’

An informal gathering will be held in the Topeka High cafeteria following the celebration in the gym.

Following USD 501 policy, facemasks are required for un-vaccinated guests and recommended for all other attendees.

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