Austin Nichols, a top 15 recruit in the class of 2013, announced via Twitter this morning that he will be attending the University of Memphis. For the past month or so, it was widely thought to be a race between Tennessee, the presumptive leader, and Duke with Memphis being a dark horse candidate. Some fans even went as far as saying Nichols was a lock to attend Tennessee. While this commit may come to the surprise of many Tennessee and Duke fans, it shouldn’t.
Both Duke and Tennessee had many things going for them. Tennessee was an in state school, former AAU teammate, Jarnell Stokes, played for them, current AAU teammate, Robert Hubbs, committed to them a few months ago, and Nichols twins sister attended school there. Duke was said to be his dream program growing up, was his mom’s favorite school, and, presumably, had open spot for him to fill. The only thing that Memphis had an advantage in was location, which proved to be the deciding factor.
In the past week or so, I was really getting the impression that Memphis was going to land this highly talented power forward out of Eads, Tennessee. Considering Nichols passed on the USA Basketball program because it was too far away from him, I felt the closer the school, the better the chance. That, unfortunately, all but eliminated Duke from contention. Memphis ultimately won out because it’s campus is located just a few miles away from his home.
What does this mean for the Duke basketball? Well, once again, Duke lost out on a highly recruited big man. Last year it was Tony Parker and Mitch McGary, this year it is Julius Randle and Austin Nichols. This means, Duke either has to land Jabari Parker and play him at power forward next to Marshall Plumlee or rely on a rotation of Amile Jefferson, Josh Hairston, and Semi Ojeleye. On top of this, recruiting big men has to be a priority going forward. I know the Blue Devils are a perimeter oriented team but, they are running low on quality big men. They can only win so many games with their guards.
With that being said, I am very high on Duke’s chances of landing Jabari Parker and Jahlil Okafor. Though both of their recruitments are fluid situations, as of right now, I can confidently predict they will be wearing a Blue Devils’ jersey when it is all said and done. Furthermore, we are in good position with 6’9″, 260 lbs power forward from the class of 2015, Elijah Thomas. There is cause for concern in regards to the recruitment of big men but, it is not time to panic.
The other big news from this weekend was Tyus Jones’ announcement of an official list of college choices. The teams that made in the cut include: Duke, Baylor, Ohio State, Michigan State, UNC, Kansas, Minnesota, and Kentucky. I have to say that I am extremely confident in Duke’s chances with Tyus Jones even more so than I am with Jabari Parker and Jahlil Okafor. There is something about this savvy point guard that screams Duke. I mean he even reenacted Austin Rivers’ buzzer beater three in the Dean Dome when he was on his unofficial visit to North Carolina!
Even though Duke lost on Austin Nichols, the future for Blue Devil recruiting has never been brighter.