Hello and Goodbye to Austin Nichols
In case you haven’t checked Twitter, VirginiaSports.com, ESPN.com, or a UVa-affiliated message board tonight, the basketball team announced the dismissal of Austin Nichols today. One would have to assume it’s related to whatever got him suspended for the two closed-door scrimmages and season opener just weeks prior. I’m not going to speculate as to what happened in this space, but if you’re familiar with Google, you can find rumors.
There was a fair amount of smoke before this fire. Mike Curtis mentioned in an interview over the summer that Nichols took some time to buy into our conditioning program. There was talk of him having to run for infractions this summer, and then he was suspended to start the season. It feels like this may have not been a good fit, or that there was a pattern of behavior that didn’t meet Tony Bennett’s standards.
- It’s obviously bad news. Austin Nichols was a five star recruit and was hailed by some as a top-25 player in all of college basketball. Losing a player with that kind of talent is never a good thing. Nichols was being counted on to anchor the interior on offense and defense and help London carry the scoring load, and now he’s gone. If you’ve read me at all, you know that I was very excited about what Austin Nichols could potentially offer this team, and now I’m disappointed that we never got to see it.
- That said, I’m not as wrecked by this as a lot of people seem to be. I think that it would hurt more if Austin had ever established himself. As things stand, this is what we got from Austin Nichols on a Virginia scholarship: dance moves, bow ties, and sweater vests in 2016, Zapruder film of him wrecking Spanish D-Leaguers over this past summer, and one regular season appearance where he struggled to look more athletic than members of a team we beat by 40. None of that gave me much to miss. If Nichols was both the talent he was advertised to be and the fit in our system that I wanted him to be, he would have started in his first appearance instead of Jack Salt (no offense to Jack Salt — Jack, you’ve made strides, buddy). Something wasn’t working.
- If someone had to go, I’m glad it wasn’t one of the first years or Mamadi Diakite. Especially Mamadi Diakite. Or Kyle Guy. Hell, I’m glad they’re all still here.
- I am not 100% sure that Jay Huff’s redshirt comes off. Salt, Isaiah, Reuter, and Mamadi give us four bigs with disparate skill sets, and Nichols’s departure doesn’t suddenly mean that Huff is going to wake up tomorrow with 25 extra pounds of muscle — the need to develop is still there. It’s more likely that Huff will play, and that decision will be made soon, but I don’t think it’s a given.
- Whether this is a personal or behavioral issue for Nichols, I hope that he gets it straightened out wherever his basketball career takes him.
The team has Yale on Sunday. Things just got a little more interesting.