For many basketball players, the opportunity to play in the NBA G League is their best opportunity, and even for some their second chance, at continuing their career and maybe getting to wear an NBA team’s uniform someday.
Such is the case of former Memphis Tigers’ forward Austin Nichols, part of the Memphis Hustle’s training camp roster in preparation for the Nov. 4 season opener against the Sioux Falls Skyforce at the Landers Center in Southaven.
Nichols played two years under former coach Josh Pastner at Memphis, but in the summer after his sophomore year decided he wanted a transfer to another school. The request became more of an issue when Memphis put restrictions on where he could go, demands that eventually were removed before Nichols left for Virginia.
But his time in Virginia became even more tumultuous, as internal issues not made public caused the Cavaliers to suspend him for two exhibition games and he was later kicked off the squad after seeing action in just one regular season contest his junior year.
Nichols, speaking at the recent media day for the Hustle at FedExForum, said he was happy for this chance to continue playing basketball. He appeared at one of the local tryouts held in Memphis to make the training camp roster.
“I’m excited for this opportunity,” Nichols said. “It always feels good for someone to believe in you. For them to have me around the last few months working out means a lot to me in them giving me the opportunity.”
The forward benefited from a basketball relationship with Hustle coach Glynn Cyprien, who recruited the former Briarcrest standout to Memphis out of high school when Cyprien was an assistant at Memphis.
“We had a pretty good relationship,” Nichols said of Cyprien. “We hadn’t talked for a couple of years but then he took the Hustle job. I think we have a good relationship.”
Having been out of basketball for a couple of years, Cyprien said expectations for Nichols will be low in how he gets ready to play NBA-style basketball.
“We’re impressed with where he is today and we look forward to him getting better and better,” Cyprien said. “We tell him it’s a one-day step with him. The only expectation is that I want him to come in everyday and work hard. He has to learn to play at the NBA level. It’s not college or high school basketball, there’s a 24-second clock and he has to play at a different pace.”
Nichols has also tried out for two NBA teams in Toronto and Boston, but is ready to move on from his past experiences and tackle his “second chance.”
“The way I left (Memphis) was definitely the wrong way,” Nichols said. “If I could change things I would do things different, but I’ve shut that chapter of my life down. I think I’ve moved on and matured.”
Sixteen players made the training camp roster, including a pair of “two-way” players from the parent Memphis Grizzlies and the team is currently practicing at the Grizzlies’ training facility at FedExForum. The group must be cut down to 12 before opening night at the Landers Center Nov. 4.
Bob Bakken is Sports Editor and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.