Josh Pastner has been a proven recruiting ace wherever he’s gone, from his alma Mater (Arizona) to his current domain (Memphis).
But there was little selling the 35-year-old head coach had to do for Briarcrest Christian (Memphis) star Austin Nichols. When push came to shove, Nichols just wanted to stay home.
A Duke fan growing up whom recruiting sources tabbed as a Tennessee lean in the months leading up to his decision, Nichols spurned the Blue Devils and Volunteers for the proximity and familiarity of the hometown Tigers. The 6-foot-9 power forward gave Pastner and Memphis a solid verbal commitment on Monday morning, spoiling months of premature speculation that he’d end up six hours east in Knoxville.
Nichols is a bona fide post prospect better suited for his natural power forward position, but also capable of manning center if necessary. With a 7-foot-2 wingspan, he is adept at swatting shots on defense and playing above the rim on offense. Nichols has a modestly decent mid-range game that interior defenders must honor, and he can pass out of the post to open, spot-up shooters. But his calling card as a frontcourt asset is cleaning up on the glass, scoring on easy put-backs and altering shots on the other end of the floor.
Nichols is the fifth major commit—the third from the Memphis area—in Pastner’s heavy, class of 2013 recruiting basket. The Memphis homebody joins fellow local products Nick King (East HS) and Markel Crawford (Melrose HS). Versatile, face-up forward Kuran Iverson (VA) and skilled point guard Rashawn Powell (FL) round out the class.
King, a 5-star swingman, and Crawford, a high-scoring 2-guard, were the first two dominoes to fall in the class. Within three months, a third Memphis-area phenom added the exclamation point to Pastner’s strongest class to date.
The high school hoops talent pool in the greater-Memphis region is the strongest and deepest it’s ever been. And coach Pastner did well to siphon most of that talent to the local college. Mephis native and 2013 classmate JaJuan Johnson (Southwind HS) was the lone exception. With the Tigers facing a scholarship crunch and little room to spare on the roster, the 4-star shooting guard committed to Marquette last week instead.
Josh Pastner is nearing the height of his recruiting game, but his player development decidedly needs polish. He’s got now the Jims and Joes. But that won’t be the case someday without a better commitment to the X’s and O’s.