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Mamadi Diakite becomes Virginia’s third four-star recruit in Class of 2016

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One day after helping Team Africa finish third in the adidas Nations, 2016 power forward Mamadi Diakite committed to Virginia.

Diakite told Jamie Oakes of 247Sports.com , who first reported the news, that there is, “It’s 80 percent chance I enroll in 2015.” Although he sounded less certain about reclassifying when talking to Evan Daniels of Scout.com: “It’s a possibility,” he said. “We don’t know yet.”

The 6-foot-9 forward from the Blue Ridge School (Virginia) is ranked No. 30 in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He is the third four-star commit in Tony Bennett’s 2016 class, joining point guard Ty Jerome and shooting guard Kyle Guy. Three-star power forward Jay Huff rounds out the class. The 2016-17 campaign is the same season Memphis transfer Austin Nichols makes his debut for the Cavaliers. He committed to Virginia on July 26.

Diakite averaged 12.0 points and 7.2 rebounds per game in the adidas Nations this past week.

Former Memphis forward Austin Nichols transferring to Virginia

Austin Nichols (AP Photo)
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Less than two weeks after Memphis loosened the transfer restrictions placed on former forward Austin Nichols, the first team all-AAC selection has found a new home.

According to a report from 92.9 FM in Memphis, Nichols has decided to transfer to Virginia. After sitting out the 2015-16 season Nichols will have two seasons of eligibility remaining.

MORE: What does Nichols’ departure say about Memphis?

Nichols averaged 13.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per contest last season. His grassroots coach’s connection with the family of John Paul Jones, for whom Virginia named its arena, led to the Cavaliers being seen as the favorite to land Nichols.

He joins a front court that will lose Anthony Gill after the 2015-16 season, with Mike Tobey having one additional season of eligibility remaining. And with the Cavaliers losing a verbal commitment from 2016 power forward Sacha Killeya-Jones, the addition of Nichols is a welcome boost to the program’s interior rotation in 2016-17.

Memphis gives Austin Nichols a full release

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After initially giving sophomore forward Austin Nichols a release with plenty of restrictions, Memphis has backtracked its stance and will give Nichols a full release, according to a release from the school. The 6-foot-10 Nichols was previously restricted from going to a number of schools when he initially looked to transfer last week. Now Nichols can pick wherever he wants for his new spot.

“The University of Memphis has reviewed the appeal submitted by Austin Nichols and has agreed to remove all conditions from his release,” the statement read.

Memphis originally blocked Nichols from going to anyone in the American Athletic Conference, any Memphis non-conference opponent in 2015-16 and Tennessee, Iowa, Providence and Virginia. Iowa, Providence and Virginia all play in a tournament with Memphis in the 2016-17 season.

Once the Nichols family hired high-powered attorney Don Jackson to look into the restrictions, Memphis ultimately cooled its stance. Probably a smart move for both parties to move on from this one and now Nichols can find a new spot to play the last few years of his college career.

Austin Nichols’ lawyer on transfer restrictions: ‘This is a calculated effort by a dysfunctional staff to punish a player’

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Austin Nichols and his family have hired high-powered attorney Don Jackson to help them fight the restrictions that Memphis placed on the player’s ability to transfer.

Jackson had some choice words for his treatment at Memphis.

“Memphis’ denial of his release is based upon a bad faith effort to deny his request to transfer,” Jackson wrote in an email that was sent to multiple media members on Tuesday. “The current NCAA regulations relative to member institution to member institution transfers violate the Sherman Act (as they illegally affect both the ‘input’ and ‘output’ markets).”

“Further, the restrictions are nothing more than a calculated effort to punish Austin’s family for his desire to transfer to a new program. Although the staff has attempted to imply ‘tampering,’ the broad nature of the restrictions clearly establishes that ‘tampering’ is not an issue; this is a calculated effort by a dysfunctional staff to punish a player for taking a step to remove himself from a failing program.”

Sheesh.

Late last month, Nichols, the best player in the Tiger program, requested a release from the school, which was eventually granted with a couple of notable exceptions: anyone on the 2015-16 Memphis schedule as well as Tennessee, Virginia, Iowa and Providence.

Here’s where this story gets interesting. Generally speaking, it’s common practice — and totally unfair — for a school to block anyone in their conference and anyone they’re playing in the near future for transfers. When specific schools are blocked, it’s likely because the former school suspects tampering. Nichols’ sister goes to Tennessee and he’s from the state. It’s not difficult to connect the dots there.

The other three schools are a different story. Virginia, Iowa and Providence are all playing in an early season tournament with Memphis in 2016, but that was simply an excuse to get Virginia on the blocked list. The Cavs and Tony Bennett offered Nichols in high school and were one of the final schools on his list before he committed to Memphis.

The connections run deeper than that. Paul Tudor Jones II, the billionaire that founded Tudor Investments, donated $35 million to Virginia, his alma mater, to help with the construction of Virginia’s new basketball arena. The building, John Paul Jones Arena, is named after his father. Paul Tudor Jones II now lives in Memphis and is reportedly close with Nichols’ former AAU coach.

Once you know all that, it’s not difficult to connect the dots there, either.

For what it’s worth, Nichols would be a terrific fit in Bennett’s front court and defensive system.

Memphis grants Austin Nichols a conditional release to transfer

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Memphis Athletic Director Tom Bowen announced on Thursday afternoon that the school has decided to grant Austin Nichols a conditional release to transfer.

“I spoke with Austin Nichols this morning and informed him the University of Memphis will grant to him a conditional release from his National Letter of Intent,” Bowen said in a statement. “While we are disappointed in this outcome and the timing of this situation, we respect his wishes to pursue other opportunities. We appreciate Austin’s contributions to the Tigers and wish him well in his future endeavors.”

The conditions for the release, according to the Commercial Appeal, include anyone in the American Athletic Conference, any Memphis non-conference opponent in 2015-16 and Tennessee, Iowa, Providence and Virginia. Iowa, Providence and Virginia all play in a tournament with Memphis in the 2016-17 season, while Tennessee is … Tennessee. Memphis’ non-conference schedule for 2015-16 includes Oklahoma, South Carolina, Louisiana Tech, Ole Miss and Ohio State.

Nichols, however, may have his sights set on something bigger. A former top 25 recruit that averaged 13.4 points, 6.5 boards and 3.4 blocks — top five nationally — as a sophomore is going to get attention from the biggest and best programs in the country. Nichols will have to redshirt the 2015-16 season, but he has two seasons of eligibility remaining.

This is good news for Nichols, and kudos to Memphis for doing the right thing by granting him a release, but it still doesn’t answer the biggest question for the Memphis program: Have we seen this program reach its peak under Josh Pastner, and why can’t they seem to keep local talent happy?

Austin Nichols looking to transfer from Memphis

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The Memphis Tigers 2015-16 season may have taken a serious blow on Tuesday afternoon, as rising junior forward Austin Nichols told 92.9 FM ESPN in Memphis that he will leave the program after two seasons.

“It was in the best interest of my family and I to decide to transfer from the University of Memphis. I want to thank everyone for supporting me in my two years at Memphis,” Nichols told John Martin of 92.9 FM ESPN. “The coaching staff, fans, family and friends. As for me, I think it’s best if I move on from here.”

According to Martin, Nichols had missed a mandatory meeting on Monday and a team workout on Tuesday.

The words “may have” are used in the opening sentence because while Nichols plans on continuing his collegiate career elsewhere, it may not be that simple. Gary Parrish of CBS Sports reported shortly after that Nichols requested his release at the end of June, but was denied. Nichols’ father told Parrish the family could take legal action.

Nichols averaged a team-high 13.3 points per game and was second in rebounding at 6.1 boards a contest. An ankle sprain ended his season on March 2.

The 6-foot-8 forward, a five-star recruit, was one of the cornerstones of a highly-touted Class of 2013 for Josh Pastner. Nick King and Pookie Powell, other members of that class, transferred out the program in March. Dominic Woodson and Kuran Iverson had both previously cut ties with the team.