Welcome to another edition of Recruiting Roundup! Former Memphis forward Austin Nichols is officially a Wahoo. With the former five-star on board, what is next for Virginia's class of 2016 and beyond?
The Nichols effect:
On Sunday, our Paul Wiley broke down Nichols' commitment to UVa and what type of player the former five-star prospect is. Nichols' talents and abilities on the court have been mentioned already, so we are going to discuss how the former Tiger will fit into the grand scheme of things in Charlottesville.
The 6-9 power forward will sit out the 2015-16 season, and will have two years of eligibility remaining, starting next winter. Nichols' arrival comes at a perfect time, as the 2016-17 Wahoos will bid farewell to three starters and a trio of front court players. Assuming Anthony Gill averages 10-plus points per game this upcoming season, the Hoos will replace one double-digit scorer with another, with the addition of Nichols.
In addition, Nichols will bring tremendous leadership and experience to the post-Malcolm Brogdon era. Nichols will be one of three fourth-year juniors on the 2016-17 roster, along with guards Devon Hall and Darius Thompson. While the Hoos will have just one senior in London Perrantes, Nichols adds another veteran presence to the team's core group of young players. The 2016-17 season was pegged by many as a reloading year, but the addition of Nichols adds instant credibility to the Virginia front court, and his mere presence on the practice floor will help the younger bigs develop into ACC caliber players.
In short, Sunday's coup was a huge huge huge win for Virginia on the recruiting trail.
With Nichols in the fold, Cavalier fans can now devote their attention fully to an even longer-running saga... the recruitment of Blue Ridge forward Mamadi Diakite. Ever since he arrived in Central Virginia in January, 2014, the Virginia coaches, players, and fans have seemingly monitored the talented big man's every move. The 6-9, 205 pound Diakite has been tearing it up on the summer circuit, recently earning five-star status on 247sports.com.
Many have long considered the recently minted five-star as a heavy UVa lean, and Diakite has indicated that he intends to wrap things up by summer's end. UVa will take either one or two more in 2016, but rest assured, one of the spots available is reserved for Diakite if he intends to join the Orange and Blue.
Big offer for Gabriel:
If Diakite is at the very top of Virginia's recruiting board, Massachusetts native Wenyen Gabriel is not far behind. Not many prospects in the entire country have had a better summer than the 6-9, 195 pound power forward. Gabriel has turned heads in literally every single tournament and showcase that he has been involved with, and the college coaches have noticed. After pulling in offers from Vanderbilt, Texas, Miami, and Nebraska this summer, Gabriel picked up an offer from the Kentucky Wildcats over the weekend.
When Virginia first reached out to Gabriel in May, the athletic forward was a bit of a mystery man, but the secret is out, and the Wilbraham & Monsoon Academy star is one of the hottest commodities in the class of 2016.
However, if UVa lands Diakite to go along with Nichols, how hard will the Cavaliers pursue Gabriel? With the two aforementioned bigs, plus Jay Huff, Jarred Reuter, Jack Salt, and Isaiah Wilkins, that's an awful lot of names in the front court. One thing that Gabriel has going for him is his ability to play on the wing. While he stands six-foot-nine, parts of Gabriel's game resembles that of a wing, and if the Cavalier coaches view him as a part-time "three", there could certainly be a spot for the MA native in Charlottesville.
Making the cut:
Early last week, 2016 small forward Braxton Blackwell narrowed his list to six schools, and the Wahoos were among the top group. Blackwell's top six features Alabama, Kansas, Texas, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and of course UVa.
Blackwell is the nephew of former UVa great Ralph Sampson, and the four-star wing will be much closer to Charlottesville this coming year. The 6-7, 205 pound small forward will spend his senior season at Oak Hill Academy, making him more easily accessible for the Virginia coaching staff.
Look for Blackwell to take all five official visits, plus an unofficial to Tennessee before he makes up his mind. Virginia would love to add Blackwell's athleticism to go along with the army of shooters in this class .
Head coach Tony Bennett continues to cast a wide net for the class of 2016. Over the weekend, Bennett extended an offer to Philadelphia (PA) shooting guard DeAndre Hunter.
According to 247 sports' Jerry Meyer, Bennett, along with St. Johns head coach Chris Mullins watched Hunter in person on Friday, and apparently the two-time ACC Coach of the Year came away impressed.
The 6-7 guard put on quite a show over the weekend, earning offers from both Villanova and Maryland in addition to the Wahoos.
This is going to be fun.
With Austin Nichols' joining the program, UVa has two scholarships available for 2016. One of those is saved for Diakite if/when he shuts his recruitment down.
But what about the other?
Virginia can go a lot of different ways with the final scholarship. If the Wahoos decided to use it, look for Bennett to add a wing. Blackwell will be one to watch, as will four-star small forward Xaiver Sneed and red-hot three star guard Andrew Jones. The UVa staff has seen Sneed quite a bit in person during the July evaluation period. Sneed's athleticism and ability to take it to the rack draws comparisons to current UVa wing Marial Shayok. Jones is blowing up in a big way this summer, and his recruitment will be all over the place in the next several months.
Long-time target Markelle Fultz is still on the board, but the Hoos have all but faded in that recruitment.
Former UVa commit Sacha Killeya-Jones has not found a home yet, but Nichols climbing on board makes a reunion with the VES stretch-four and Virginia even less likely.
If Virginia wants another big in addition to Diakite, Gabriel is obviously the guy. In addition, UVa made four-star forward Tyler Cook's top schools earlier this spring, until the Missouri native actually visits Charlottesville, we will not be able to gauge the interest from either party.
Of course, Bennett could always decide to pocket the scholarship for the class of 2017. London Perrantes' graduation following 2016-17 leaves just one vacancy for the next year's team, and the Cavalier coaching staff is in with some highly-ranked 2017 kids.
There are a lot of unknowns right now, but one thing is for sure, it's an exciting time to be a fan of Virginia basketball.
That will do it for this week's edition of Recruiting Roundup. See ya!