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?