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Virginia Tech basketball: Former UNC 4-star recruit transfers to the Hokies

Nickel is the state of Virginia’s all-time leading high school scorer.

NCAA Basketball: Boston College at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Virginia Tech Hokies’ men’s basketball team kicked off their ACC season in December with a big win over the preseason-No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels in Blacksburg. On Thursday, the Hokies landed one of UNC’s premier recruits from just one year ago when forward Tyler Nickel announced he was heading to Blacksburg.

Nickel is a 6-foot-7 forward from Elkton, Virginia, and played his high school basketball at East Rockingham High School. Nickel was a four-star recruit in UNC’s 2022 recruiting class, where the Tar Heels narrowly beat out the Hokies for Nickel. Many believed Nickel always favored Virginia Tech until he received the North Carolina offer, which changed things.

However, after one season in Chapel Hill, Nickel entered the NCAA transfer portal and the Hokies were immediately involved.

Nickel spoke to Joe Tipton of On3 about his decision.

“I chose (Virginia Tech) because I believe it’s a great situation for me individually as well as being part of a team that can win a lot of games,” Nickel said via Tipton. “I also have built a really good relationship with Coach Young and the whole staff.”

What are the Hokies getting in Nickel?

Nickel is an excellent shooter who also has a mid-range game. He can play either forward position for the Hokies but is best suited to play small forward. Nickel immediately gives Mike Young another talented outside shooter to plug into his rotation in 2023-24.

What’s the coolest fact about Nickel? He is the state of Virginia’s all-time leader in points scored. Nickel surpassed Mac McClung in his senior season. Considering some of the talent from Virginia over the years, that’s an impressive feat. J.J. Redick, Allen Iverson, Alonzo Mourning, Ralph Sampson, Dell Curry, Moses Malone and Grant Hill are just some of the greats from the Old Dominion state. And Nickel scored more points in high school than any of them.

Earlier this week, the Hokies also landed Old Dominion forward Mekhi Long. The 6-foot-7 Long began his career at Rhode Island before transferring to ODU, where he led the Sun Belt Conference in double-doubles last season.

Long averaged 10.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per game with the Monarchs in 2022-23. Long can also play either forward spot and looks to be Justyn Mutts’ replacement. While Long may not be the passer or possess all of Mutts’ intangibles, he could give the Hokies more on the offensive end, particularly as an outside shooter.

Long and Nickel are strong additions for Virginia Tech, which saw Darren Buchanan and Darius Maddox enter the NCAA transfer portal after the season.

That should just about do it for Virginia Tech’s offseason additions unless someone unexpectedly enters the transfer portal. The Hokies are awaiting decisions from Grant Basile and Hunter Cattoor about whether they will return to Blacksburg for one final season. The latest news around both sounds encouraging but is far from a sure thing.

Welcome home, Tyler and Mekhi.