by Patrick Gustavson
Following their most successful season in three years, Central Connecticut’s men’s basketball team took a hit when it was announced that junior shooting guard Austin Nehls would be leaving the program.
This past season, Nehls became the 37th player in program history to reach 1,000 points, doing so in just three years.
The decision to transfer was made by Nehls following his sophomore year when he knew he was on track to graduate early. He was able to do so thanks to AP courses in high school and taking summer courses.
A finance major, Nehls decided that CCSU’s Master of Business Administration (MBA) program was not the right one for him, which was the ultimate factor in deciding to transfer.
Due to his status as a graduate-transfer, Nehls will be able to play immediately for his new program, which also played a major role in his decision.
“That’s pretty much the only reason that I did it [transfer],” Nehls said. “If I had to sit out, I wouldn’t have transferred, or even graduated.”
Nehls still has not made up his mind on where he will play his final year of eligibility, but has received offers from Bowling Green, Ball State and Northern Arizona.
His interest in Ball State and Bowling Green were due to their MBA program, while Northern Arizona would bring him closer to his hometown of Tucson, Arizona.
Nehls said he is visiting the three schools next weekend and the upcoming week and hopes to have his decision made by early May.
Nehls views himself as “an unselfish player who can shoot the ball and space the floor.”
“When I’m on the floor, defenses can’t help off me, because of my shooting ability,” Nehls said.
Not only does he think he can contribute on the court, but off the court as well.
“I don’t necessarily lead by talking, but I lead by example,” Nehls said. “I’m always working hard in practice, staying late after practice, getting to practice early. I think that leadership quality will also be something that I bring to the table.”
During his time as a Blue Devil, Nehls appeared in every game, starting all but one, and averaged over 35 minutes per game. He understands that his role may not be as significant at his new program, but he welcomes the new role and “challenge.”
“I’m expecting somewhat of a diminished role,” he said. “It’s something I’ve never done in my career. I’ve always been a starter. I’ll try to impact the game in new ways without being on the floor for 35 minutes.”
Though head coach Donyell Marshall opted not to comment, Nehls says there is no ill will on either side, and that he had told Marshall and many of his teammates that he was “leaning towards transferring.”
Nehls played for two years under Marshall following the retirement of then-coach Howie Dickenman following his freshman year.
“The new coaches came in and believed in me. They showed that by playing me so much,” Nehls said.
The team’s spike in success this past season did not change Nehls’ mind, as it was “pretty much made up two years ago.”
“After we lost to Wagner I was like ‘wow, I’d definitely love to come back and beat Wagner and beat these other teams and hope to get to the NCAA tournament,’ because that’s everyone’s goal,” Nehls said. “But at the same time, it’s not just about next year, it’s about the rest of my life.”
When asked what he would miss the most about Central, Nehls said “the people. Over these three years, I’ve come to be close to everyone on the team and the coaches, too.”
Nehls said what he learned the most from his time as a Blue Devil was how to deal with adversity, citing his freshman season in particular.
“Our first year, we started 0-10, and it’s really easy to give up and hang your head and accept defeat. I never did that,” Nehls said. “I was always in the gym trying to get better. Even though we were taking losses, I didn’t let that affect my work ethic.”
Going forward, the goal for Nehls will be to obtain his MBA and make the best future possible for himself. As for basketball, he hopes that whichever school he goes to, they can compete for a spot in the NCAA tournament.
“It was tough to leave. It was sad. I think in the long run, it will be the best decision for me,” Nehls stated.