UT pulls out all the stops to impress basketball recruit Austin Nichols

On Saturday afternoon, the pregame pandemonium stirring around Neyland Stadium in anticipation of Tennessee's football game with Alabama was in its early stages. Inside Pratt Pavilion, meanwhile, Austin Nichols was sitting in on an intense, inspirited basketball practice.

Cuonzo Martin was Cuonzo Martin. He paced. Gnawed on a whistle. Directed traffic. Clapped. Scowled.

It was business as usual.

On the sidelines, Nichols, Martin's top target for a lone remaining scholarship next season, watched on with his family.

Prior to the official visit, Mark Nichols, Austin's father, told the News Sentinel, "I don't know if (UT) would be a good fit for him, you know because Tennessee has a grind-out style type of play and I think a more open offense would be more conducive to Austin now."

A weekend sales pitch was aimed at this notion.

The UT staff put together a video production mapping out how Nichols' game correlates to Martin's motion offense. The Vols think they're a match.

But it doesn't matter what the Vols think.

In the end, the 6-foot-9 power forward ranked as the No. 26 prospect in the Class of 2013 by 247Sports, will choose between the Vols, Memphis, Vanderbilt, Duke, Virginia and Auburn.

Martin and the Vols pulled out all the stops to assure his favor.

"It was a great visit, man," Mark Nichols said. "Tennessee did a great job. The basketball staff just did a wonderful job. It was awesome."

During his 48-hour visit to Knoxville, Nichols attended football coach Derek Dooley's pregame locker room speech before kickoff against No. 1 Alabama. He was in the tunnel when the Vols ran through the "T." He toured the athletic department's deluxe facilities. He watched Martin conduct two days of practices.

"They didn't miss any opportunities to impress us," Mark Nichols said.

Then came a handshake with the Vols' most famous alum.

On the way from Saturday's basketball practice at Pratt Pavilion to the UT locker room in Thompson-Boling Arena, Nichols recognized a familiar face. Outside the arena, Peyton Manning was tailgating with teammates from UT's 1997 SEC championship team.

Nichols took advantage of the opportunity, but missed a crucial task.

Awash in shock, he forgot to snap a picture with the legend.

"He was just shocked that that was Peyton Manning," Mark Nichols said.

A memorable handshake would have to suffice.

More important than any encounter with UT royalty, though, was the Vols' Xs and Os proposal.

A blossoming all-around game makes Austin Nichols an ideal inside-outside power forward at the college level. And he's getting better.

No current player on the UT roster offers a similar skill set.

That's where the videos came in.

"We got a little insight and he'd probably be OK (at UT), but I still don't really know," Mark Nichols said. "It just depends — depends on where he plays and how good he is. And a lot of it depends on Austin."

Mark Nichols added that he came away impressed by the UT practices.

"I thought it was good," he said. "Cuonzo tells them what to do and they do it. He's not into the cussing or any of that."

After visiting Auburn next week, Austin Nichols will announce his future home in early November.

Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at Twitter.com/BFQuinn

© 2012 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 28

snowpeapod#263184 writes:

Let's hope "all Stops" didn't encounter any roadblocks. This kind of athelete would make my purchase of a condo in West Knoxville for basketball season seem like a brilliant idea. And I don't care if I'm first, I want the Vols and Lady Vols to be first.

VolGrad writes:

Reel 'em in, Coach.

Go Vols!

The_Ron_Burgundy writes:

Cuonzo is a very good coach. A good coach creates and adjusts his offense to the players that he has. I believe that he would open the offense up for a player of his caliber. Best of luck to you Austin in your decision, we'd love to have you in orange. But the decision is yours, and ignore all us fans and go where you think you belong.

CUSA_NEWS writes:

When in doubt, pull the Peyton Manning card. Why am I not surprised...

snowpeapod#263184 writes:

in response to CUSA_NEWS:

When in doubt, pull the Peyton Manning card. Why am I not surprised...

Sounds like CUSA_NEWS has a reported like our John Adams. You can have him if you want and you'll be twice as bad. I guess you'll really cry and moan if Austin chooses to wear orange.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

Yes I'll be disappointed if he doesn't choose UT.

BUT! What if he does???

Ok calm down now.

VOLinATL writes:

Hope that handshake with Peyton, who is an alumni/booster, wasn't a violation!!! ;)

springtx_vol writes:

in response to The_Ron_Burgundy:

Cuonzo is a very good coach. A good coach creates and adjusts his offense to the players that he has. I believe that he would open the offense up for a player of his caliber. Best of luck to you Austin in your decision, we'd love to have you in orange. But the decision is yours, and ignore all us fans and go where you think you belong.

Somehow, I just don't see Coach Martin turning to an up and down the court offense. He is a defense first coach. If they can get a lot of points off of turnovers, that is great. If you have a fast break opportunity, great. But Tennessee is apparently going to play a tough, inside the jersey defense over anything else. In that type of game, every offensive possession is important. You simply don't open the offense up to a run and gun unless you have the other team completely out manned. Those team generally do not win championships, just like in football.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to springtx_vol:

Somehow, I just don't see Coach Martin turning to an up and down the court offense. He is a defense first coach. If they can get a lot of points off of turnovers, that is great. If you have a fast break opportunity, great. But Tennessee is apparently going to play a tough, inside the jersey defense over anything else. In that type of game, every offensive possession is important. You simply don't open the offense up to a run and gun unless you have the other team completely out manned. Those team generally do not win championships, just like in football.

I hate to bring this up? But it sounded to me like the father here expects what ever team his son goes then that team is to surround his son and feed him the ball.lmao "Give me the ball"!! I don't blame the father really. He's a dad. For that reason alone the son here should pick UT and try to actually flourish within a different system. He NEEDS to learn to be defensive minded. He needs Martin's approach to the game. Playing defense first only makes you a team player and a better one. Now Mr. Nichols. Tell me any pro team that wouldn't want a great defensive player who can also handle and shoot the ball? Martin will no doubt teach Nichols up if Nichols will come in and listen and if he doesn't want that then maybe we don't need him. ulp. Please Austin pick us!!

MO_Orange writes:

I didn't see any mention of Nichols attending the football game, let's hope Coach Martin had the good judgment not to subject him to that.

MemphisMagic writes:

Why not just play for UM and get better offense and defense...

Scoring offense (2011-12 NCAA stats)
UT 68.76
UM 74.69

Scoring defense
UT 65.18
UM 63.09

UT can't talk D without slowing the ball down. The Tigers run at every opportunity while scoring more and playing better D.

The "learn D @ UT" argument just doesn't fly. While UT did play better D than Duke, the disparity in offensive stats puts UT third overall.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to CUSA_NEWS:

When in doubt, pull the Peyton Manning card. Why am I not surprised...

Oh, yeah, no other school in the country EVER brings top recruits and their greatest former stars together when possible. Heavens! The very idea! Of course, being from CUSA, few of your members have anybody famous enough to make an impression on any recruit.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to VOLinATL:

Hope that handshake with Peyton, who is an alumni/booster, wasn't a violation!!! ;)

If Peyton chauffered him around town, bought him dinner, and parted with a $100 handshake, that would be a violation. A regular handshake in passing...not so much.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to The_Ron_Burgundy:

Cuonzo is a very good coach. A good coach creates and adjusts his offense to the players that he has. I believe that he would open the offense up for a player of his caliber. Best of luck to you Austin in your decision, we'd love to have you in orange. But the decision is yours, and ignore all us fans and go where you think you belong.

In CCM's first press conference, he said that his teams will play tough defense and run a motion offense. However, he also said that he would modify the offense to accommodate his talent. No coach worth his salt is going to promise a kid or his father that he would completely redesign his offense to please one kid who might get hurt or transfer or not like the school once he got there. CCM is being completely straight with the Nichols'; if they don't like that, they can go somewhere else. I think that would be true even if Nichols were the #1 prospect in the country, which he is not. Again, I rather suspect that most of this is due to Dad not wanting to tip his hand too soon. He wants to KNOW that Martin means what he says, and won't try to pump smoke up their butts just to land a recruit. Besides, since his sister is already here, it would seem that a family like the Nichols' seem to be would warm to the possibility of seeing both of them in one trip.

HooRay_Vol writes:

Starting Lineup
C- Hall
PF- Stokes
SF- Maymon
SG- McCrae
PG- Golden

2nd Team
C- Makanjoula
PF- Dwight Miller
SF- D'Montre Edwards
SG- Josh Richardson
G- Skylar McBee

With Hall, Maymon and Miller gone after this year, Nichols will be instant starter. Will have to see if he gets to play along side of Stokes or not.

alfrizzle097 writes:

in response to MemphisMagic:

Why not just play for UM and get better offense and defense...

Scoring offense (2011-12 NCAA stats)
UT 68.76
UM 74.69

Scoring defense
UT 65.18
UM 63.09

UT can't talk D without slowing the ball down. The Tigers run at every opportunity while scoring more and playing better D.

The "learn D @ UT" argument just doesn't fly. While UT did play better D than Duke, the disparity in offensive stats puts UT third overall.

Yes. Let's use stats to determine quality of play without taking into account schedule. Tennessee played Kentucky and Florida twice each in conference.

Tulane and Tulsa are surely comparable opponents?

wycoller writes:

097....you nailed it. Apples and oranges.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to wycoller:

097....you nailed it. Apples and oranges.

Nothing is so misleading as statistics with no context. Maybe that troll will learn that when he gets to junior high math.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to HooRay_Vol:

Starting Lineup
C- Hall
PF- Stokes
SF- Maymon
SG- McCrae
PG- Golden

2nd Team
C- Makanjoula
PF- Dwight Miller
SF- D'Montre Edwards
SG- Josh Richardson
G- Skylar McBee

With Hall, Maymon and Miller gone after this year, Nichols will be instant starter. Will have to see if he gets to play along side of Stokes or not.

This year, the Vols will be able to pound on people; next year, they will likely have to outrun them. Looked at that way, it may actually make sense to run a more open offense in which Nichols can flourish. The Vols will have the numbers, quality, and experience to dominate in all aspects of perimeter play next year, but right now they do look a little thin in the middle if Stokes leaves and Nichols doesn't come.

TrouserCough writes:

Go Cuonzo!

Colliervol writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

I hate to bring this up? But it sounded to me like the father here expects what ever team his son goes then that team is to surround his son and feed him the ball.lmao "Give me the ball"!! I don't blame the father really. He's a dad. For that reason alone the son here should pick UT and try to actually flourish within a different system. He NEEDS to learn to be defensive minded. He needs Martin's approach to the game. Playing defense first only makes you a team player and a better one. Now Mr. Nichols. Tell me any pro team that wouldn't want a great defensive player who can also handle and shoot the ball? Martin will no doubt teach Nichols up if Nichols will come in and listen and if he doesn't want that then maybe we don't need him. ulp. Please Austin pick us!!

Good point Mocs. And I can assure you that, contrary to popular belief, NBA players play defense. If you don't learn to play good tough man-to-man defense, you aren't going to play much in the league. Defensive liabilities just don't stick, no matter how good they are offensively. Austin sounds like he has the offensive game but, if he wants to make it big in the NBA, it would do him good to learn from a tough, defensive-minded coach like CM.

Tippet writes:

in response to MemphisMagic:

Why not just play for UM and get better offense and defense...

Scoring offense (2011-12 NCAA stats)
UT 68.76
UM 74.69

Scoring defense
UT 65.18
UM 63.09

UT can't talk D without slowing the ball down. The Tigers run at every opportunity while scoring more and playing better D.

The "learn D @ UT" argument just doesn't fly. While UT did play better D than Duke, the disparity in offensive stats puts UT third overall.

Nice Stats Memphis Fan Boy. What conference do you play in? That's right a mid major.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to johnlg00:

This year, the Vols will be able to pound on people; next year, they will likely have to outrun them. Looked at that way, it may actually make sense to run a more open offense in which Nichols can flourish. The Vols will have the numbers, quality, and experience to dominate in all aspects of perimeter play next year, but right now they do look a little thin in the middle if Stokes leaves and Nichols doesn't come.

Is Hubbs here then or the year after? 2014? 15?

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to Tippet:

Nice Stats Memphis Fan Boy. What conference do you play in? That's right a mid major.

LOL The tiggers only averaged 2pts. better? in that so-called conference? I don't understand how we allowed them to win last year. In their case it may have been sheer talent and timing of when we played. But we will have to prove again this season that we own them. We slipped up last year in quite a few games. the reasons though may not be apparent to any non-follower of UT. Stats certainly prove nothing for the tiggers.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Colliervol:

Good point Mocs. And I can assure you that, contrary to popular belief, NBA players play defense. If you don't learn to play good tough man-to-man defense, you aren't going to play much in the league. Defensive liabilities just don't stick, no matter how good they are offensively. Austin sounds like he has the offensive game but, if he wants to make it big in the NBA, it would do him good to learn from a tough, defensive-minded coach like CM.

And also a great point by you. People who don't know anything about the NBA except scores in the agate type section of the sports pages seem to think that because NBA teams frequently score over 100 that they don't play defense. NBA scores are high because their games are EIGHT minutes longer than college games, the players get SIX fouls before fouling out, so the stars are on the court longer, and finally they ARE THE BEST PLAYERS IN THE WORLD. Most highly-touted rookies were offensive stars on their college teams, so their coaches often didn't even WANT them to play great defense so they won't foul out or wear themselves out. The NBA is entirely different in this regard. Most high draft picks wind up sitting for most of their first contracts because they never learned to study defense or play all-out on it.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

Is Hubbs here then or the year after? 2014? 15?

Hubbs will be here next year, which is one reason I am so confident the Vols will dominate on the perimeter. If the team doesn't get bigger--Stokes stays, Nichols signs--we may even see the return of an all-out pressing game, even though CCM has said he is not a big fan of that style. I am pretty sure he is smart and flexible enough to run whatever system he thinks will give them the best chance to win with the players he has.

south_alabama_vol writes:

Sure hope he doesn't let his dad make the decision for him.

CUSA_NEWS writes:

What had happened was....

LOL

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