The loss of Thomas Akyazili isn't going to diminish the international flavor on the roster of the Colorado men's basketball team.
On Wednesday the program announced it has filled one of the two scholarships opened by the postseason departures of Akyazili and Bryce Peters by adding Lazar Nikolic, a long-armed guard from Serbia who has competed the past few seasons with the Stella Azzurra Academy in Rome.
Akyazili, from Belgium, announced he was planning to return home to pursue a professional career following two seasons with the Buffs, while Peters opted to transfer after his freshman season.
While Nikolic often is listed as 6-foot-8, CU head coach Tad Boyle said, "we'll measure him when he gets here," indicating Nikolic may be closer to 6-foot-6. Regardless, Boyle also said Nikolic has the potential to make an immediate contribution, and that the idea of redshirting him next season has not even been discussed among CU's coaching staff.
Nikolic will join a 2017 freshman class already considered the best of Boyle's seven-season tenure, a group that features Sand Creek star D'Shawn Schwartz alongside Tyler Bey and Evan Battey.
"He's a big guard with good size," Boyle said. "He's very good with the ball. He can pass, he can dribble, he can shoot. Obviously he has to get stronger for the Division I game. He loves the game of basketball and wants to be great. He's going to bring great skill and versatility. He's very good with pick and rolls and you can play him with so many different players.
"We're excited about him. He brings a great skill-set and upside to our program."
Through 25 games this season with Stella Azzurra, Nikolic has averaged 12.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, and a team-leading 4.1 assists. Boyle credited assistant coach Bill Grier for pinpointing Nikolic on the international recruiting scene. Even with Akyazili's loss the Buffs still have two other international players on the roster in Lucas Siewert (Brazil) and Alexander Strating (Netherlands).
The addition of Nikolic leaves Boyle still with one open scholarship following the departures of Akyazili and Peters. While not wishing to discuss specifics, Boyle said all options remain on the table, from adding a transfer to a high school player or even another international player. Holding that scholarship for another season also isn't out of the question, though Boyle also suggested the Buffs still have a few specific recruiting targets on their radar.
"We always have oars in the water. There's probably two kids right now that we're zeroing in on," Boyle said. "If we get the guy we want, we will have absolutely the best recruiting class in the history of this school, in my opinion. We'll have all five spots covered."
Contrary to previous reports, Cal State-Northridge graduate transfer Kendall Smith ultimately decided not to visit CU on Wednesday. ESPN reported on Monday that Smith was set to visit the Buffs this week...Schwartz came in at No. 68 in the final ESPN100 list of the top 2017 recruits in the nation.