Class of 2022 top-70 wing Tyler Nickel had heard that Indiana was watching him play on live streams at various events during the late summer and early fall, but he hadn’t heard directly from the staff.
Apparently IU liked what they saw.
And when they made their first call to Nickel earlier this week, Indiana wanted to make that clear with the Virginia product.
“They had been evaluating me but didn’t really contact me until they offered,” Nickel told The Daily Hoosier. “I was contacted first by (assistant) Coach Kenya Hunter, and then the next day I got a call from Coach Miller and they offered”
Very often with Indiana under Miller, it is first build the relationship, then offer a scholarship.
There was no waiting around when it came to Nickel.
“He (Miller) told me that he wanted to jump on the opportunity now to start building a relationship, and he wanted to let me know that I had an offer even before that,” Nickel said.
As is the case with most players in the area, Hunter is the lead assistant for Nickel.
What did Hunter and ultimately Miller see in Nickel’s game that made them want to move forward quickly?
“They like how my game fits their style of play, and how my size, versatility and scoring arsenal is something that they think will really fit at Indiana,” Nickel said.
The nearly 6-foot-8 Nickel has seen a wave of Division One offers in the last few months, including high majors such as N.C. State, Iowa, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, and others.
But Indiana is perhaps the highest profile school that has offered to this point. And that is something that Nickel doesn’t take lightly.
“It’s a really good feeling. It’s kind of surreal,” Nickel told The Daily Hoosier. “Knowing the history of Indiana and the success. Knowing that you’re wanted by the historical, successful teams is eye-opening. It’s wild, but it’s really exciting.”
As he mentioned, Nickel’s combination of size and versatility is a big part of the allure to Indiana and other high major programs. He credits his coach for resisting the temptation to stick his big frame in the paint to dominate on the low block.
“Luckily for me I have a coach that understands what direction the game is moving towards,” Nickel said. “He never had me planted anywhere. I was always coming off screens or going coast-to-coast and making things happen.”
Nickel has been a scoring machine through his first two years of high school. He averaged 26.7 points per game for the 2019-20 season, and his 1,464 career points are the most ever by a boys basketball player through their sophomore year in Virginia High School League history.
A competent scorer at all three levels and in transition, it is precisely that combination of size and skill that has made Nickel so lethal.
“Primarily the guys that are guarding me are either too small where I can use my size, or guys that are my size but aren’t as good with their feet and can’t stay in front of me,” Nickel said.
N.C. State, Wake Forest, LSU, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Memphis, and South Carolina are the schools showing the most interest right now along with Indiana.
It is worth noting that Nickel’s hometown of Elkton is less than an hour from the University of Virginia. He says that proximity to home won’t play a meaningful role in his college choice.
What kind of things will be important when the time comes to make a decision?
“The style of play, just knowing that it’s the best fit for me and where I want to be, the atmosphere on and off the court,” will all be important factors Nickel said. “It’s whatever I think will be the best stepping stone for my future. I want to be the highest draft pick I can be, and be a pro and do everything that I can.”
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