The Weekend That Was in the SEC: On Kentucky’s Interior Defense and Sindarius Thornwell…

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 14th, 2014

After one week of conference play, unbeaten Georgia and Texas A&M sit atop the SEC standings along with Florida and Kentucky. While the Bulldogs have to travel to Gainesville for a tough roadie tonight, the Aggies will take on South Carolina and Mississippi State next. It’s not crazy to think that Texas A&M could sit at 4-0 when it travels to Rupp Arena next week for a showdown with the mighty Wildcats. But will Kentucky remain undefeated after visiting Fayetteville this evening? There are a lot of reasons to look forward to this week as the conference race begins to take shape, but first we have to look back at how we got here.

Here are three observations from the past weekend of SEC play.

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  • While Kentucky’s perimeter defense has improved, the Wildcats have allowed offensively deficient Mississippi State and Vanderbilt to play alarmingly well in the post. The Bulldogs scored 36 of their points in the paint, while the Commodores put in 30 down low. Through two games of conference play, Kentucky is allowing opponents to shoot 51.3 percent on two-point jumpers (11th in the SEC), and blocking just 11.8 percent of their overall attempts (seventh). This is an area of major concern for a program that has dominated on the interior since John Calipari’s arrival in 2009.

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Prather, Randle, Clarkson Emerge as Favorites for SEC POY

Posted by Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) on January 7th, 2014

Conference play finally gets underway tonight, so there’s no better time than now to look at which players have emerged as the top contenders for SEC Player of the Year. The following list definitely omits a number of worthy candidates, but as with any list, debate is encouraged through social media and in the comments section. Also, overall team success was definitely a factor, but not a definitive one. Here are the players who have set themselves up in the non-conference season for a run at SEC POY:

Casey Prather, Florida (17.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 28.5 PER, 61.4% eFG, 94.2 dRTG)

It's never too late: Casey Prather has broken out in his senior season (msn.foxsports.com).

It’s never too late: Casey Prather has broken out in his senior season (msn.foxsports.com).

If you’d have asked a Florida fan before the season which Gator would have the biggest impact this year, Prather might’ve been the fifth or sixth player mentioned. But he’s easily topped that list thus far for Florida, turning himself into one of the best players in the SEC. The senior is playing 12 more minutes per game this year, and has built on the solid peripherals that he posted in his junior season. Prather’s emergence has been key for a team that had many important players either suspended or injured to begin the season. The big pluses of his talent (getting to the rim and playing defense) are generally sustainable attributes that should help Florida win a lot of games in SEC play. Florida is the conference’s highest-ranked team right now and Prather has been their best player. For those reasons, he deserves to be at the front of the POY discussion.

Julius Randle, Kentucky (18.1 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 28 PER, 56.6% eFG, 94.7 dRTG)

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SEC M5: 12.18.13 Edition

Posted by Greg Mitchell on December 18th, 2013

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  1. Hello there, Casey Prather. A week after this brilliant clueless writer suggested his big scoring nights might be few and far between against good competition, the senior went out and led Florida to a win over Memphis with a game-high 22 points. This was a good match-up for Prather, as he was defended by smaller players most of the night because of Memphis’ frequent four-guard lineup. For the second straight Tuesday, Florida had to execute late in a close game against a good opponent, and that should serve as valuable experience down the road. The Gators coughed it up a fair amount (18 turnovers), but this was expected against Memphis. They were able to offset this by outrebounding the Tigers by 11. Essentially, the game played out like it was projected, with two excellent teams doing what they do best. The Gators can now claim two of the better non-conference wins in the country, with Chris Walker still on the way. Holiday cheer is spreading in Gainesville.
  2. You can’t fault Alabama for losing to Wichita State, even at home. The loss is still excruciatingly disappointing for the Tide because they had numerous chances to pull off the upset and resuscitate their season. Trevor Releford (22 points, six assists) didn’t get much help from his supporting cast, and Retin Obasohan had scored a combined 42 points in Alabama’s last two games but sank to only eight points on 2-of-10 shooting against the Shockers. The Belgian sophomore has emerged as one of the best slashers in the SEC, but he only got to the line four times (two of which were from a stop-the-clock foul late). Alabama played hard all night, but missed an opportunity when Ron Baker, Fred Van Vleet and Cleanthony Early were all on the bench in the first half with two fouls. Creating some separation from that golden opportunity would have gone a long way towards a win.
  3. LSU has had a mostly positive start to the 2013-14 season, but Johnny Jones is looking for improved ball-handling as the Tigers head to Lubbock to take on Texas Tech this evening. “In other areas we’re not being as fundamentally sound as we’d like to with the travel calls or taking a pass and throwing it over the top in our offensive set because we’re taking a chance,” he said. “We’re better, and they will continue to go down. We’re hopeful that our turnovers will go down. If we can get to 11 or 12 [per game], I think it’ll be a good trade-off from how we play.” LSU is currently averaging the highest number of turnovers per game in the SEC (16.1 TOPG). NOLA.com‘s Randy Rosetta points out that some of that is due to Jones’ fast style of play, but that Johnny O’Bryant and Jordan Mickey need to do a better job of not coughing it up when they face double teams. Big men struggling with double teams has been somewhat of a theme in the SEC recently. Jarnell Stokes was stifled against Wichita State, and Gavin Ware has been lost the last few weeks. Rosetta thinks O’Bryant has shown improvement in passing out of the paint, but Anthony Hickey (38% FG) and Andre Stringer (41% FG) need to knock down jump shots at a better clip to really make the offense hum.
  4. A bumpy road was inevitable for Frank Martin and South Carolina due to transfers and a general lack of talent within the program when he took the job. But the Gamecocks got a rather jarring bump last night with an 18-point loss at home to Manhattan. This was only South Carolina’s sixth game, and the Gamecocks have had three understandable losses in that span (Clemson, Baylor, and Oklahoma State). Last night’s loss may end up being understandable in principle because the Jaspers are 8-2, but even if Manhattan ends up as one 2013-14’s better mid-majors, an SEC program shouldn’t lose at home by 18 to a team from the MAAC (with all due respect to the Siena and Iona teams of recent vintage). The one bright spot was freshman Sindarius Thornwell, who looks like he can become a reliable scorer (17 points, 10-of-13 FTs). He also only turned it over once despite playing 36 minutes. Martin knew he was in for a challenge in Columbia, and he indeed has a big one ahead of him.
  5. Scottie Wilbekin (Player of the Week) and Jordan Mickey (Freshman of the Week) picked up last week’s SEC weekly awards for what was a period light on games because of final exams. In Wilbekin’s lone contest, a home win against Kansas, the senior controlled the game on both ends of the floor. He ended up with 18 points and six assists, and created havoc at the bottom of the Gators’ 1-3-1 zone with four steals. This production came a week after Wilbekin had suffered an ankle injury against Connecticut which looked far worse than it ended up being. Mickey wasn’t as hyped as fellow LSU freshman Jarrell Martin, but he has been one of the best freshmen in the SEC thus far. He scored 25 points and grabbed nine rebounds against Louisiana-Monroe, and also blocked five shots. He’s averaging nearly four blocks per game this season, which is good for the top 10 in the country. His shot-blocking presence will let Anthony Hickey and Andrew Stringer take more chances on the perimeter as the season goes on.
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SEC M5: 11.20.13 Edition

Posted by Justin Bridgman on November 20th, 2013

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  1. For the first time in eight seasons, Alabama scored more than 100 points in a game. All it took was playing Division II Stillman to pull it off. Two things worth noting really stood out in the box score. First, the Crimson Tide attempted 31 free throws while Stillman took just nine. Clearly, Alabama was more aggressive offensively, and were able to take advantage of the new NCAA rules. Second, and perhaps more remarkable in the age of the three-pointer, but Alabama made just five threes for the game. They made 32 two-point field goals, yet another testament to their aggressive mentality on offense. That is the mentality Anthony Grant needs from his team when they play better opponents the rest of the season.
  2. Frank Martin is concerned that his team is suffering from a lack of leadership, and it is showing with the team’s bad start. Martin felt that a lack of preparation led directly to the Gamecock’s inability to run their offense against Clemson, in true coach’s fashion Martin hated the team’s defense too. With seven true freshman on the roster, this really shouldn’t come a surprise. While Martin can lean on sophomore Michael Carrera for leadership, that is a lot to ask of a player with just one year of NCAA experience under his belt. As the season goes on, South Carolina will work out their issues, and a leader will emerge. In the meantime, enjoy Frank Martin’s brilliant quotes throughout the article, which include complimenting his team’s defense by calling it “not pathetic”.
  3. When a team is as deep and talented as Kentucky is, someone suffers a loss of playing time. At the start of the season it looked like Marcus Lee and Dominique Hawkins would not be in the Wildcat rotation. Flash forward to five games into the season and the picture has already changed. Lee started his second straight game last night, scoring 10 points and three blocks. Hawkins only scored 3 points, but played 13 minutes in a blowout win. John Calipari likes the way Hawkins brings energy when he plays, something the Wildcats have struggled with at times this season. Lee adds a versatile defensive element that Calipari loves. Lee can lead a press and also protect the rim in half court situations. Exactly what the rest of the country wanted, for Kentucky to find even more depth.
  4. LSU has one of the most talented front courts in the country this season, and their rebounding numbers reflect that so far. Even without start freshman Jarell Martin, the Tigers averaged 53.5 rebounds in their first two games, and added 56 last night. Johnny O’Bryant and Jordan Mickey have been dominating the glass, and even 5-9 guard Andre Stringer has been contributing quite a few rebounds. This is an advantage that LSU should continue to exploit all season long. Not only will it keep them in contention against Kentucky and Florida, but it will cause major issues for teams like Missouri that don’t have much size inside.
  5. Speaking of Martin, his return is still up in the air right now. While there was speculation he might return last night, precaution won out and Martin sat out again. It’s hard to determine the impact of Martin’s injury since he has only played 33 seconds and the LSU big men haven’t missed a beat without him. Still Martin is a five-star recruit and expected to make a major impact whenever he does get back from his injury. The sooner he comes back and develop chemistry with his teammates the better. In the meantime, fellow freshman Jordan Mickey has been a revelation for LSU and added 16 points and 11 rebounds last night.
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SEC M5: 11.13.13 Edition

Posted by Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) on November 13th, 2013

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  1. The Preseason Wooden Award list was announced yesterday afternoon and the SEC occupied seven of the fifty spots. This was the first year freshmen and transfers were included and not surprisingly Andrew Harrison, James Young, and Julius Randle were among them. They are joined by teammate Willie Cauley-Stein, and Jarnell Stokes and Jordan McRae. The “snub” discussion is too tempting after any list is put out there, and there’s a good argument Trevor Releford should have been included. He’s the SEC active leader in points, assists and steals. Releford (career: 12.6 points, 2.9 assists, 16.5 TO%, 20.2 PER) is comparable to Memphis point guard Joe Jackson (career: 11.5 points, 3.9 assists, 22.1 TO%, 18.3 PER), who is on the list. Patric Young might have an argument too.
  2. LSU’s heralded freshmen class had a relatively rough go at it in the Tigers’ season opening loss to UMass. Jarrell Martin turned his ankle on the team’s first possession and didn’t return. This proved especially costly when Johnny O’Bryant picked up a third foul late in the first half, and a fourth midway through the second half. Jordan Mickey played well overall (16 points on 7-of-15 shooting, 10 rebounds), but missed a couple point blank layups and more importantly allowed the Minutemen far too many easy looks at the rim. Johnny Jones probably had to play Mickey far more (38 minutes) than he wanted in this game because of the circumstances. Tim Quarterman got the start, but the offense moved much better when Anthony Hickey and Andre Stringer were the primary ballhandlers.
  3. South Carolina nearly toppled #23 Baylor in Waco in what would have been the signature win of Frank Martin‘s young tenure. Three things from this game stand out going forward. Freshman guard Sindarius Thornwell is emerging as a legitimate go-to offensive option as he scored 20 points on 6-of-13 shooting. His 6’5” size and perimeter skills will be a tough match-up for most teams. Second, the Gamecocks interior defense, led by the undersized Michael Carrera, was impressive against one of the more talented frontcourts in the country as Isaiah Austin and Corey Jefferson scored only 21 combined points. Finally, high foul counts are a theme of the season thus far, and Frank Martin’s aggressive style play was no stranger to this. The Gamecocks were whistled 29 times, leading to 43 Baylor free throw attempts. The Bears were atrocious from the line (51 percent), and had they been better the game would’ve been very different.
  4. Billy Donovan has a lot of nice pieces at Florida this season. He has a frontcourt that goes four deep and two distributors in Scottie Wilbekin and Kasey Hill. But for perimeter scoring he is relying on two players transitioning from bench players to main contributors, one of which is sophomore Michael Frazier. “My team is going to need me to have an increased role this year,” Frazier said. “I knew that going into the summer. I’ve been really trying to expand my game.” The three-point shot is a big part of Frazier’s game (46 percent last year), but he struggled in only shooting 29 percent from three during a stint with the Team USA U-19 team this summer. He began the season with a career high 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting against North Florida, so it doesn’t appear his summer struggles had a lasting effect on his confidence.
  5. John Calipari might be beginning damage control with Marcus Lee. “‘But this program is going to be about you Marcus Lee. I just need you to get better. I’m going to coach you and I’m going to develop you, and understand right now these guys are ahead of you, but that doesn’t mean anything’. You know what he responds? Greatest kid. Tried to leave the locker room, he forgot shoes he was walking out with bare feet. I said, ‘what are you doing?’ He said, ‘oh, I forgot my shoes,'” said Calipari. It was inevitable that someone in Kentucky’s historic recruiting class would have a tough time getting on the court; there are only so many minutes to go around. Lee appears to be the guy thus far, and he played less than a minute against Michigan State last night. Media blitzes like this are part of what makes Calipari such a great coach because he understands better than probably anyone how to manage emotions and personalities.
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Who’s Got Next? Ben Simmons Joins a Beefy LSU Class, Tennessee Lands a Shooter, and More…

Posted by Sean Moran on October 21st, 2013

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Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to discussing the recruitments of the top uncommitted players in the country. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Foul dedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

LSU Stays Hot

Less than one week after adding powerful big man Elbert Robinson from the class of 2014, LSU’s Johnny Jones struck  gold in the 2015 class with the commitment of 6’9” Australian Ben Simmons. In a surprise decision, the five-star forward went with the Tigers over schools such as Duke, Kansas, and Kentucky. Simmons is currently rated as the No. 8 player overall and No. 2 power forward in his class, despite limited time in the United States. Simmons made his first appearance in the United States in early June 2012 in California. In a three-day showcase camp, Simmons took the camp by storm, showing off the skills he honed in Melbourne. In January 2013, Simmons came over to the U.S. for good and enrolled at Montverde Academy (FL), which also happened to be the top high school team in the country. Simmons joined forces with current Florida freshman guard Kasey Hill and Kentucky center Dakari Johnson on the team.

Ben Simmons is the Best LSU Commitment in Years

Ben Simmons is the Best LSU Commitment in Years

The Tigers have been on a roll with their recent big men commitments, but Simmons will provide the team with an added dimension of versatility. In the 2013 class, Jones signed a five-star power forward in Jarrell Martin (No. 14 overall, 2013) and four-star power forward Jordan Mickey (No. 37 overall, 2013), adding to class of 2014 four-star center, Robinson (No. 59 overall, 2014). Martin possesses the most skill of the bunch and has range out to the three-point line, but he is most effective down low. Mickey’s calling cards are his rebounding and defensive abilities while Robinson is a load to handle in the post. Martin and Mickey average 230 pounds while Robinson weighs a massive 320 pounds.

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Morning Five: 07.12.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on July 12th, 2013

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  1. The story surrounding Marshall Henderson‘s suspension continues to evolve with the latest news being that he was pulled over on May 4 for speeding (the article says “suspicion of speeding”, but we have no idea what that means). When the officer approached the car he smelled marijuana and Henderson handed him a bag containing marijuana and a subsequent search revealed a small amount of cocaine. Additional details around the traffic stop remain unclear, but it appears that Henderson was only issued a citation for not having insurance and somehow was not cited for possession of drugs. We are not clear on the drug laws in Mississippi, but it appears that an individual would not be prosecuted if the amount of cocaine was less than one-tenth of a gram so perhaps Henderson was able to escape the school’s radar for the time if they were not informed of this part of the citation.
  2. However, as Andy Katz notes the Mississippi staff tried to address Henderson’s substance abuse issues at least six weeks ago as when they reached out to former basketball star turned drug abuse speaker Chris Herren to help get through to Henderson. As you might have guessed the call was never returned and Henderson continued his downward spiral in some course leading to the announcement of his suspension yesterday. It appears that Henderson has finally spoken with Herren so it appears that at least that line is open to Henderson. We voiced our opinion on how the media (and the public) handles issues around substance abuse in particular when combined with race, but we just hope that Henderson is able to get his life together even if that does not involve a significant basketball career.
  3. The next round of criticism of the NCAA is set to begin with USA Today‘s analysis of the the NCAA’s 2011 tax return. Among the interesting aspects of the document the one that will probably get the most attention is the Mark Emmert’s compensation package totaling $1,674,095, which is primarily base compensation ($1,201,159), but also includes retirement/deferred compensation ($234,300), undefined reportable compensation ($214,947), and nontaxable benefits ($23,689). Although the overall size of his compensation package is not that outlandish compared to many CEOs of public companies it will certainly raise some eyebrows especially given the political environment surrounding the NCAA now. As the article notes there were three other executives who made more than $500,000 that year. The other interesting aspect of the tax return was that it spent $9.5 million on legal expenses during the fiscal year. We have no idea what the breakdown of that was in terms of legal action against it or to pay for its legal counsel in ongoing cases, but we figure that with the momentum behind the Ed O’Bannon case that number may rise over the next few years.
  4. One of the issues surrounding prep schools (aka basketball factories) is the concern that many of their players will not be eligible to play college athletics due to issues regarding their academic workload at these “schools”. Prime Prep, a school in Texas co-founded by Deion Sanders, appears to be one of those schools and yesterday the NCAA ruled that two of its graduates–Jordan Mickey and Karviar Shephardwere not academically eligible due to academic issues at the school. Mickey, a top-50 recruit who committed to LSU, and Shepherd, a top-100 player who committed to TCU, reportedly had been informed by the school that they would be eligible to play NCAA sports with their grades and the coursework they had completed. However, that appears not to be the case. Some people may point out that it is the student’s responsibility to make sure they are eligible, but realistically this falls on the school because you cannot expect a teenager, who is at most 18- (or 19-) years old to be able to navigate all the details of NCAA eligibility without the help of experienced adult. Both players will appeal the decision, but may have to sit out this season. It is worth keeping an eye on this because the school also has two players who are top-5 players in the next two graduating classes.
  5. Last December, Mississippi State and Loyola (IL) played a game to commemorate the 50th anniversary of their historic NCAA Tournament game where the Mississippi State players had to sneak out of Mississippi in order to play an integrated team. Many view it as one of the key moments in sports in relation to the civil rights movement of the era (one that would eventually be overshadowed in the annals of history by the 1966 NCAA Championship Game). On Saturday, Leland Mitchell, one of the most prominent players on that Mississippi State team died at his home in Starkville. Mitchell, who had 14 points and 11 rebounds in the game before fouling out with over six minutes remaining in the 61-51 loss, and his teammates acknowledged that they did not understand the significance of the game at the time in the context of the larger social change that was happening around them. As Mitchell noted, “We were making history. We were ambassadors for the South, though none of us realized it at the time.”
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Seven Sweet Scoops: Decision Coming From Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins Plans Three More Visits…

Posted by CLykins on December 14th, 2012

7sweetscoops

Seven Sweet Scoops is the newest and hottest column by Chad Lykins, the RTC recruiting analyst. Every Friday he will discuss the seven top stories from the week in the wide world of recruiting, involving offers, which prospect visited where, recent updates regarding school lists, and more chatter from the recruiting scene. You can also check out more of his work at RTC with his weekly column “Who’s Got Next?”, as well as his work dedicated solely to Duke Basketball at Duke Hoop Blog. You can also follow Chad at his Twitter account @CLykinsBlog for up-to-date breaking news from the high school and college hoops scene.

Note: ESPN Recruiting used for all player rankings.

1. Jabari Parker Sets Decision Date

The nation’s No. 2 overall ranked senior, Jabari Parker, has finally set a date for his highly anticipated collegiate decision that has been delayed for the past few months. A product of Simeon Career Academy (Illinois), the 6’8” small forward will announce one of BYU, Duke, Florida, Michigan State or Stanford on Thursday, December 20. Where most see five schools listed, the forthcoming decision will likely come down to just two in the end. Throughout his entire recruitment it has been Duke and Michigan State jockeying for the lead position, a trend that will most likely continue up until Thursday afternoon according to his father Sonny Parker. “He hasn’t told me where,” Sonny Parker told USA Today. “I didn’t ask him. It’s kind of hard to say. He’s liked all the schools we’ve visited. He’s hard to read sometimes. He keeps things to himself, so I don’t put any pressure on him. I think it will probably be between Duke and Michigan State. That’s what I’m thinking.” While Parker enters the homestretch of the recruiting process, he is also recovering from a summer injury that has required a good amount of rehabilitation. Out since July, Parker made a surprise return to the court on December 1 in a season-opening victory for Simeon at the Chicago Elite Classic. In 11 limited minutes, Parker contributed six points, four rebounds and two assists while looking out of shape with an extra number of pounds added to his frame. Since then, Parker has shed at least 10 pounds and is slowly getting back to the player that has gained national recognition as one of the best high school basketball players in the country. On December 20, one school will be gaining a monumental piece to their basketball program. The question remains: Will it be Duke or Michigan State?

Jabari Parker will announce December 20 for Duke or Michigan State

Jabari Parker will announce December 20 for Duke or Michigan State

2. Andrew Wiggins To Take Three Visits After Senior Season

Coming off a recent visit to Florida State last week, Andrew Wiggins has decided that he is going to take a break from the recruiting process until after his senior season. Once the season is finished in March, Wiggins plans to take three more official visits to Kansas, Kentucky and North Carolina. Ohio State and Syracuse are in the mix for his fifth and final official visit that may or may not happen. Although Wiggins has shut down his recruitment as far as visits go, that has not stopped coaches from visiting him. Kentucky head coach John Calipari was on hand to watch Wiggins at the Marshall County Hoopfest in Benton, Kentucky, two weeks ago and will be in attendance at the Boyd County Roundball Classic in Ashland, Kentucky, this weekend. Ohio State head coach Thad Matta watched him this past weekend, while North Carolina head coach Roy Williams made the trip to Spring Valley, West Virginia, on Wednesday to watch the 6’7” sensation. Wiggins is currently averaging 21.5 points and 11.9 rebounds per game for No. 1 Huntington Prep (10-0) on the season.

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Who’s Got Next? Austin Nichols Stays In Memphis; Jarrell Martin Picks Hometown LSU…

Posted by CLykins on November 6th, 2012

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Chad Lykins, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to discussing the recruitments of the top uncommitted players in the country. We also encourage you to check out his contributions dedicated solely to Duke Basketball at Duke Hoop Blog. You can also follow Chad at his Twitter account @CLykinsBlog for up-to-date breaking news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: ESPN Recruiting used for all player rankings

Austin Nichols Stays Local, Picks Memphis

There’s no place like home. At least according to 6’8″ Briarcrest Christian (Tennessee) power forward Austin Nichols, who ended his college recruitment on Monday by committing to the hometown Memphis Tigers. The No. 12 ranked player in the class of 2013, Nichols will join an already loaded recruiting class that includes fellow ESPN 100 prospects small forward Kuran Iverson, small forward Nick King and point guard Rashawn Powell as well as three-star shooting guard Markel Crawford. He chose the Tigers over Auburn, Duke, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Virginia.

2013 No. 12 ranked prospect Austin Nichols completes a stellar recruiting class for Memphis

“At the end of the day, Austin wanted to stay at home and play with some talented guys who he knew very well,” said his father, Mark Nichols. Once back home after completing his last official visit to Auburn, Memphis head coach Josh Pastner showed up at the Nichols residence for one final recruiting pitch. Rumored by many to be fading down the stretch to the likes of Duke and long-time favorite Tennessee, Pastner never wilted and kept pushing to land what he considers a “future Memphis basketball icon.”

With his recruitment shut down for a week once Pastner made his last attempt, the Nichols family spent Sunday night pondering the important decision. Mark Nichols then presented Austin with a 58-page report from KenPom.com to review advanced statistics of each of the six teams he was considering. The innovative approach factored into Nichols selecting the Tigers, which was decided as the perfect place for his future. The allure of playing in the area he grew up and in front of family and friends at the collegiate level proved to be all he could have ever wished for. “I’m just honored, I can’t even explain it,” Nichols said. He intends on signing his national letter of intent during the early signing period, which runs from November 14-21.

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