With two top 25 recruits (Nick King and Kuran Iverson) and two more top 100 recruits (Rashawn Powell and Markel Crawford) already committed to the Tigers, Memphis head coach Josh Pastner was simply flexing his recruiting muscles on Monday afternoon when Austin Nichols called him and pledged to the Tigers.
Nichols, a 6-foot-8 Memphis native that is ranked as the No. 12 recruit in the country according to ESPN, as long considered a heavy Tennessee lean, but things changed over the last month. According to his father, it was the last week that eventually changed Austin’s mind.
“We gave him the week off [from calls and visits] and then had a ‘come to Jesus’ meeting yesterday,” Mark Nichols told CBSSports.com. “We put together a 58-page report on all the schools and decided Memphis was the best place.”
Pastner has taken plenty of heat for his coaching ability the last two seasons, but there is no questioning his recruiting. This is the fourth consecutive powerhouse class for Pastner, two of which have yet to play an actual game for the Tigers. The future is bright in Memphis.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.