The Memphis Tigers added to an already loaded 2013 recruiting class on Monday by picking up a commitment from senior power forward Austin Nichols (Eads, Tenn./Briarcrest), the nation's No. 12 overall prospect in the ESPN 100.
Memphis coach Josh Pastner and his staff have secured a potential McDonald's All-American and elite local prospect, and they had to fight some major competition to do so. Nichols chose Memphis over Duke, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Virginia and Auburn.
Nichols is the fourth ESPN 100 prospect Memphis has landed in this recruiting class, joining No. 28 recruit Kuran Iverson of Windsor, Conn., No. 30 Nick King of Memphis and No. 92 Rashawn Powell of Orlando, Fla. The Tigers also have a commitment from three-star shooting guard Markel Crawford of Memphis to round out a top-five recruiting class.
When Nichols arrived home from his final official visit to Auburn last week, Pastner and assistants Aki Collins and Damon Stoudamire soon arrived at the Nichols home.
"They put the full-court press on that night," said Mark Nichols, Austin's dad.
It worked. According to Nichols' father, staying home and Nichols' familiarity with the program became the deciding factors. Nichols played for the same AAU program as Crawford and King, participated in the Under Armour Elite 24 showcase with Iverson and teamed up with current Memphis freshman Shaq Goodwin on the USA Basketball U18 National Team training camp roster this past summer.
"At the end of the day, Austin wanted to stay at home and play with some talented guys who he knew very well," Mark Nichols said.
Nichols had six schools on his list and never took an official visit to Memphis. But being a local product, he'd seen the campus plenty.
"At least 100 times," Mark Nichols said.
None of those unofficial visits was more important than when Nichols visited Memphis a few weekends ago for Memphis Madness, the Tigers' version of Midnight Madness.
When Memphis goes hard after a local player, the Tigers often land their man. There have been some big-time local products recently like Joe Jackson and Adonis Thomas who had major options but decided to stay home as well.
Nichols is projected to play power forward for the Tigers. He excels at running the floor in transition and scoring from the high post with solid fundamentals. However, he likely will need to add strength to compete physically in the paint at the college level.
Thanks to this year's recruiting class, Memphis' future roster is loaded with the kind of top prospects the Tigers will need for their jump to the Big East.