Austin Nichols: With this being my last year of AAU, it's important to me to make it good. I mean, I look at last year as a really good thing because I got to play with two really talented bigs in Shaq Goodwin and Jarnell, so this year, I'm on a different AAU team and I'm a leader on that team, which is really good for me. We're just working together to build a good team and have a good tournament at Real Deal on the Hill.
Talk with me about the match-ups last week and then with the Real Deal coming up. How do you think you did last week and what are you looking forward to this weekend?
Last week was really good. We actually beat the LA Mustangs who had actually beat one of the best teams in the country by around 20 points before they played us, then we came in and beat them by 15, that was a good game for our team.
Just curious, what prompted the move to a new AAU team?
The big thing was I knew quite a few of the guys on my new team and it was a good move for me and my family, because it gave me an opportunity to be a leader on the team, and it's just a lot of fun getting to play with them.
What are you playing at right now, height, weight, etc?
I got measured recently and it looks like I grew over an inch in both height and also in my wingspan. I'm at 6 ft 8 and a half right now with a measured wingspan to 7 ft 3 and I'm weighing in at 205 pounds. I'm hitting the weight room more and more.
Looking at your measurable, they sound like a player who plays outside-in. Is that your approach?
I'd say I try to go more inside/out than outside/in. My big thing is use my length to my advantage, so if I can post a smaller defender and shoot over him, I can do that, or I can take a guy out on the perimeter and make plays there. But I mainly try to do my work on the inside so I can use my length to my advantage. Like in high school I averaged between 4-5 blocks a game.
The thing with him, he's just so long you know and he's mentally strong too. It's amazing to see how gifted he is and watching him play. I learned a lot from a defensive, blocking shots area. There was a show that ESPN did where they showed how he was physically able to block so many shots and that was something I enjoyed watching.
Did you make an effort to watch a lot of teams specifically this season on TV?
Actually, I just really watched what was on a lot of time. I'd rather watch a really good game if it's on than limit myself to only watching certain teams. Like with March Madness, I liked to try and watch higher seed teams because you saw a lot of good games with them, but I really didn't watch certain teams and that's it.
You took some unofficial visits during the season. Now that you have senior year coming up, do you have any schools in mind for unofficial or official visits?
Well, I went to Tennessee several times and I saw Ole Miss in person once too, but I'm not really sure where I want to officially visit just yet. I just know that I really want to make a good decision and I need to take all my visits that are allotted to me, whatever that number is now.
Are there schools that are stepping up and saying we'd like you to come visit as soon as possible?
I've gotten a lot of offers from some really good schools that I'm looking at. UVA, Florida, Duke, who they just offered me a couple days ago which was great, Memphis, Texas, Georgia, Vanderbilt, there's more than that, that's just what I can remember right now.
What's it like for you knowing you have firm offers from some of the top programs in the country?
I've said it before and I'll say it again, its' just a dream come true to be honest. I never thought I would even get looks from high major D1 programs, so to now be receiving full scholarship offers from these schools…it's just a great feeling, gives me a lot of confidence in myself, but I'm trying to stay humble, that's really important to me as a Christian.
Now that you have so many firm offers, how do you differentiate between them?
To say I look at them all the same, I don't know, I don't think I can really do that because each of those offers are really unique and special to me, you know ?
Like with Coach K calling me and telling me how much he likes me as a player and offering me a scholarship, I mean, that's just so special to me. Even like with Coach Bennett from Virginia, he's such a great Christian man and he talked about Christ when he made the offer to me, that truly shocked me because I'm really used to coaches talking to me who don't really talk about Christ all that much. When Coach Bennett did that, he hooked me, it was such a great experience, I know he'd be a great mentor for me if I went there.
That's a first I've heard of a coach integrating faith and Jesus Christ into a scholarship. Is Coach Bennett the only one who has done that?
I think when you think of a Division 1 coach, you think oftentimes about what kind of players they bring in. What kind of program they have, how much have they won, basketball type stuff. But with coaches like Coach Bennett and also with Coach K, to hear them talk about Christ and their relationship with Him, it's still shocking to me, but at the same time, to know now there are coaches who share the same faith and values that I share, it's a good thing for me to know, lets me see what kind of program they have.
Have you noticed your parents picking up on the same things that you are picking up on in talking with the coaches, or do they talk about different things with you?
I think my parents have noticed similar things, but they point out other stuff as well. Like my mom, I know my mom wants me to stay close to home, she'd love for me to stay home and go to school in the State of Tennessee, but at the same time, my parents love me and support me in my decision, so it's not hard to talk about college stuff with them. What's hard is I would love for my parents to be able to come watch me play in college, so that's something that factors in some with my decision.
You sound like you are experiencing what a good amount of players go through when evaluating what school to go to. Do you and your parents evaluate schools based on how long a plane flight they are from where you live or how far a drive it is to get there?
I mean, I don't think that's something we've gone too far into thinking about to be honest, I'm sure we'll deal with that when the time comes.
How then are you moving forward with that process? What's going into your evaluation?
I think the next step for me is I need to make a list by mid to late summer of five to seven schools that I'm really going to consider for my college choice. To do that, I'm going to be looking at a lot of factors. Relationship with the coach is a big one, what the distance is between where my family lives and where their school is located, the style of play, the players they have in the program at my position and also the players they are recruiting in my class and in the one after me and also, they have to have good academics. If I don't make it to having an NBA career when I'm all done playing, I want to make sure I earn a degree that will set me up for life.
When you say good academics, are you referring to specific degree programs or just the academic prestige of an institution?
It's more the degree program, like I'm thinking about majoring in something in the sports field, maybe a sports management or sports medicine, something along those lines potentially.
Didn't know you were into Sports Medicine, are you a big science guy in school?
Yeah. Right now I'm in an upper level Chemistry course and that's going well and next year, I've received the opportunity to take an anatomy class, which I think will help me as a player, learn more about the body and what it can do.
It looks like Duke is one of the most recent offers as you mentioned. What are your thoughts on that approach and timeframe with regards to making an offer?
I think it was a fast process and I knew that it was Coach K's strategy. I could tell that he really wanted to see how things progressed with me during the season, and I was completely on the same page with that. I can tell he knows what he really wants and he's told me that he trusts me and I completely trust him. He asked me if I could fill in at the four spot for them and I said I think I could.
Hearing Coach K say to you that he trusts you Austin, did that have a big affect on you?
Yes sir, I mean, they are one of the best offers I have. When he told me that he trusted me and then told me he was offering me a full scholarship to Duke, I didn't even know what to think in that moment, it was that exciting. I told Coach K that I was still neutral but I'm really excited about the fact that Duke is recruiting me, to hear Coach K say he likes me as a player and he wants me to keep working hard in the weight room and that he's looking forward to building a relationship to me, it all sounds really great to me.
How much did you pay attention to what they did with their bigs this past season?
From what I saw, I really liked what they did. They had all three Plumlee brothers: Miles who is a senior who won't be there next year; Mason's a senior, he had a great season and Marshall, he's going to be a red shirt freshman this year I believe. I love how they use their bigs with their guards, they do a lot of screen on ball with their bigs, bring them up the lane and then bring them back down, it's just a brilliant offense for bigs. Coach K's a great coach. I had a chance to watch their home game against Florida State and that was real nail biter to watch, but I saw how the Plumlee brothers and Ryan Kelly was involved and what they did, that style just fits me so well. I love how they let their bigs do a lot of different things on the court, because that's my style.