Recruiting Update: Austin Nichols

With his son's recruiting process drawing to a close, the father of four star power forward Austin Nichols sat down with TDD on Tuesday night to recap his family's visit to Durham.

TDD: Before we get to the interview, can you comment on the reports that Austin has decided to end his recruitment?

Mark Nichols: That's not true at all. It's just some person putting that out there. It's probably like what some people do with other kids where they get some clutter out there about a particular school to try to get them to commit. In the end it just causes trouble. I don't know where it came from though, and no commitment has been made. Austin was freaking out when i called him just recently after I saw that online. He said "Dad I don't know where they got that stuff because it hasn't happened." He said he told people on twitter that he hasn't committed.

From your perspective, what have you thought about the media attention surrounding Austin?

It's been hectic and fun. And it's been really good for him. We've enjoyed it, but we'll be glad when it's over. We'll be glad when he commits and we get started going in that direction.

How has it been good for him?

I just think that as he's come up in the rankings, and gained more attention, it's been good for people to get to know him.

How have you guys handled this level of attention?

I think we're handling it pretty well, but at the same time it's a bittersweet thing. You love the attention to a point, but then sometimes it gets to be a headache or stressful. We just try to take it in stride. It's like I told Austin earlier, you are going to look back at this and say "boy, it was really fun, but it was a roller coaster for sure". It's probably hectic on both sides of the fence, for us and for the schools.

Did you have a plan for how to handle it before it all started?

I'm leaving it up to Austin for the most part. The beat writers will call me or text me, and then I'll work with Austin on what he wants to do. I got all the coaches down, once we narrowed the list to six schools, to a three hour window on Sundays where they could call or email or text with Austin. They could only call him on Sunday's for three hours, and then the rest of the week he's got his schoolwork. He goes to private school and it's not a real easy school, and some of these coaches wanted to come see him before school or go to breakfast with him or lunch or something. We had to put a stop to that stuff so we could handle things better.

Was that Sunday schedule your idea or Austin's?

It was something that i came up with to protect him. There's a lot of stress on him because of recruiting and still having to do workouts and do schoolwork while trying to be a normal kid. We did that right after he cut his list. We were putting up with about 40 schools or so, so we just decided to scale it back once we cut the list.

Take me back to the in-home visits with the schools. Can you share about what you guys were hoping to learn from the schools as they came in?

It was mainly for everybody to come in and talk. Everything was awesome, and we had a good time. Now we've got two officials left, to Auburn this weekend and then to Tennessee the next weekend with the Alabama game.

That sounds like it'll be a fun trip to Tennessee with Bama coming in.

I think it will be fun, especially if Tennessee can win the game. I've always been a big fan of Tennessee football, but I've never really followed them for basketball.

Can you shed some light on what you will evaluate about the Tennessee official visit after visiting so many times unofficially and otherwise?

Actually, in the beginning we were thinking about not doing an official visit to either Tennessee or Memphis because we know about them by being there so many times and we know the coaches and the campuses. Austin ended up deciding that he really wanted to do an official visit to Tennessee, so that's what we're doing.

So, what changed?

It was really my idea to not have an official to the local schools, and then Austin said he wanted to do an official visit to Tennessee.

You obviously have input into this recruitment, what are things that you've emphasized to Austin to pay attention to?

Going to college and playing for a school is a business decision, and you need to handle it as such. You need to figure out what's best for him and not for anybody else. He needs to make sure what kind of system he'd play in. What kind of coaching staff the school has. How knowledgeable they are, and what kind of resources they have for after basketball and these are all in no certain order. It's just a huge business decision and to be quite honest about it. I don't think most 17 or 18 year olds have the mindset to make that huge a decision without talking it out with their parents. A lot of kids react on emotion and not on fact and i think a decision like this needs to be made based on facts.

Where do you think Austin is on that evaluation spectrum?

You know i'm not really sure to be honest. I'd like to think he's going to make a business decision though.

How has he responded to what you've shared input wise?

I think he's listening and I think he's hearing what I have to say, but he doesn't show much emotion or response. He's enjoying the visits for sure, like this past weekend he was shadowing Mason and Marshall Plumlee and he loved that. He loved Virginia, he just loved all his visits so far, the Vanderbilt official visit was great, and it's like I tell people, I don't think there's a bad official visit.

Has there been anything on the official visits that's really stood out?

With Virginia, they have a great campus and great history. Coaching staff is awesome, and it's just a great staff and facility. Vanderbilt has a great coaching staff. It's pretty close to home, but every visit has been awesome. Duke, it was just so awesome.

What made the Duke visit so good?

Well, we went to Coach K's house and they made breakfast and they went fishing in his lake. Austin caught a big bass during that time. It was awesome. I'll tell you, Duke is such a family oriented place, it's just a family deal there.

What do you mean by that?

They just made you feel like that when you come to Duke, you are part of a really big family of Duke that's all around the world. Kinda like a special fraternity. Just for instance, when we went to Coach K's house, his granddaughters were there, his daughters were there, his wife, it was really nice. The whole Duke visit was just awesome, I can't say anything bad about any of them.

How do you give an honest evaluation as to what's a good fit for Austin

I think the best system for Austin is one where the team runs, and where the programs can take advantage of Austin's versatility and will use him to the fullest. It's also really important about the degree program he's in. Also, the exit strategy is important. Some of these schools have excellent alumni bases and that's important to look at for Austin once he leaves school. I do know there are a few that are really special.

What did Mrs. Nichols think about the Duke visit?

She was good with it. I think she was really impressed with Coach K. It was just a remarkable weekend. Coach K has a vision for Austin, maybe a little better than most. You know, it's just him being Coach K, and the vision, it's just real special.

What's the vision he expressed?

He thinks Austin is a perfect fit at Duke in so many ways. He thinks he can be a lottery pick if he comes to Duke. He can get off his feet very quickly and it's just awesome how he can use Austin.

How did Austin react to that presentation?

I think Austin is a little overwhelmed. It's Duke. And it's Coach K. Austin just turned 18, and I think a lot of grown people don't realize that just because he's 6-foot-9 and can dunk and play basketball that he's still a kid. That's why I think a lot of grownups miss the mark on how we're dealing with this. With all these big schools, there's a lot of extra pressure, because it's not like going to a regular school. I think he's just starting to really digest what he just experienced at Duke, which was that awesome of a visit.

Austin has mentioned how close he is to his family, especially his sister. How much of a role does that play in this decision with her being enrolled at Tennessee?

It probably plays in a little bit, and it has some bearing. I don't know if it's any more than any other place. I don't know how much he's really thought about that in terms of his decision. We're gonna talk here real soon, once we get back from Auburn. We're gonna sit down, get our lists out and start really taking stock of what we've seen.

What makes you want to have that conversation prior to going on the Tennessee official visit as opposed to after?

I think it's because there's a genuine purpose with the Tennessee official visit. There's still a lot of unanswered questions with Tennessee.

Like what?

Just a lot of stuff we need to ask about just like we've asked all these other schools ?

Did you have unanswered questions going into the Duke visit last weekend? And if you did, what kind of questions were they?

Yeah, you have questions with every visit that are based on style of play, who else are you recruiting, what if he were to get injured, would you honor his scholarship, and stuff like that?

How did you feel about the answers you received from the Duke staff?

I was pretty pleased. I think we're pretty good, and we don't have any unanswered questions with Duke.

How are you going to handle the process once you complete the Tennessee visit?

It just really depends. We have to take it day by day, and we'll have to talk it over. If we need more in-home visits we'll do that. We want to make the right choice for sure.

What has Austin said in terms of his mindset as he prepares for these last two visits?

I think he's going in with an open mind with questions he needs answered. Every coaching staff we've talked to has said Austin is hard to get a read on. It's the same for us. He has told me all the way through that he wants to take every single visit, and then sit down and really evaluate what he's seen so he can make a good decision when he's ready after the visits are all done.


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