Nichols: Rocky Top trip was 'great'

While Tennessee's football program was scoring 45 points Saturday in Knoxville its basketball program was scoring plenty of points with one of the state's premier prospects for the Class of 2013.

That would be Austin Nichols, a 6-foot-8, 205-pound junior at Memphis Briarcrest who is rated a four-star recruit by He essentially was blown away by his visit to Knoxville during the Vol-Cincinnati football weekend.

"It was great — not just because of the football game but how nice the coaches were," Nichols told "The head coach and the assistants were with me at all times. That shows how committed they are.

"At first, I really didn't think they were that interested in me. Once I got to Knoxville and met the coaches that definitely changed my view."

Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin proved his commitment by visiting Briarcrest last week and again today. He showed up to watch Nichols practice this afternoon, underscoring his high regard for the talented young prospect.

"That shows how interested he is in me," Nichols said. "Tennessee's definitely high on my list, if not No. 1."

Head coach John Harrington confirmed the Vols' keen interest in Nichols during Briarcrest's Monday practice.

"I'm sitting here with Coach Martin right now watching him play," Harrington said.

The high school coach said his star player shot 65 percent from the field and 72 percent from the foul line as a sophomore last winter. Although Nichols plays center for Briarcrest, his coach thinks he'll be a forward in college.

"He has great hands," Harrington said. "He's 6-8 with a 7-1 wingspan. He's going to be a 4 man (power forward), maybe a 3 (small forward). He's long and athletic. He finishes with his left and right hand very well. He averaged 16 points, 7 rebounds for us last year and was a Mr. Basketball finalist in the private school division."

Harrington said Nichols offsets his lack of heft with hustle and athleticism.

"He runs the floor very well," the coach said. "He beats 'em down the floor a lot of times. And he's so long that he shoots over them a lot."

Asked about Nichols' shooting range, Harrington replied: "He's good from 15 or 16 feet. I don't ask my post men to shoot from outside and I don't ask my point guard to post up."

Although he's skilled offensively, Nichols may be even more polished defensively.

"He's already broken the school record for blocked shots, and he's just now going into his junior year," Harrington said. "He averages about five blocked shots per game. He can affect a game defensively, as well as offensively."

Nichols has such a knack for shot-blocking, in fact, that Harrington said it limits his rebound totals.

"He only averaged about seven rebounds per game," the coach said, "but that's because he contests so many shots."

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