The Tigers scored big-time Monday when they landed a verbal commitment from Austin Nichols, a 6-8, 215-pound power forward from Memphis Briarcrest Christian.
"I put on for my city!! Go Tigers!," he Tweeted.
“I know the air in the ball eventually runs out, and I need something to fall back on,” Nichols told the Memphis Commercial Appeal. “If I go to Memphis, I can get my degree, come back, and be sort of like a Penny (Hardaway), a figure like that. That’s what I wanted.”
The Rivals No. 6 power forward in the Class of 2013, Nichols also considered Virginia, Vanderbilt, Duke, Tennessee, and Auburn.
Nichols told SNY.tv this summer that he had a strong relationship with Memphis coach Josh Pastner.
“He’s a great coach, great program,” he said. “Shaq’s Goodwin going there [this] year, he’s a good friend of mine. Ever since I met with Pastner, he offered me my freshman year. He’s very close with me, he talks with me just about every month. I’d love to play for him."
He joins an impressive recruiting class that will debut in the Big East for the 2013-14 season and includes small forwards Kuran Iverson and Nick King, shooting guard Markel Crawford and point guard RaShawn "Pookie" Powell.
“(Memphis’ 2013 class) is a group of good, unselfish kids,” Mark Nichols, Austin's father, told the Commercial Appeal. “Austin’s played with them over the past few years (in AAU). I feel like they’re gonna be an unselfish group. It takes unselfishness to win.
“The other part was, obviously, being at home, being around friends and family and staying in the great city of Memphis. Hopefully it pulls the fans together closer.”
Nichols averaged 18.6 points and 9.6 rebounds last season.
“Memphis is getting a more athletic version of Keith Lee, in my opinion,” Briarcrest coach John Harrington told the Commercial Appeal. “He’s a unique-type player. I think the question was how strong was he gonna get. This year he put on 20 pounds. Colleges weren’t necessarily leery of it, but once they saw how strong he got, it was like, ‘wow.’ They saw he was ready to play right now.”