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As a high school underclassmen, Pierre Henderson-Niles was one of the most dominating inside presences in the country. As a junior, he peaked as high as 33rd in the country, according to Scout.
But that is when the hefty PHN started to put on weight. At his heaviest, he was tipping the scales at 347lb, a weight that would make NFL lineman jealous. At the start of the summer, Niles was checking in at 327lb.
This summer, however, things have changed. Memphis head coach Josh Pastner has gotten his senior forward to buy into a workout regimen and a strict diet, which has helped him drop an impressive amount of weight, trimming down to 278lb.
Combined with the loss of the Tigers starting front court, this change in PHN's body has led Gary Parrish to believe the big fella could be poised for a breakout season.
It does make sense. Niles, along with JuCo transfer Will Coleman, will be logging a ton of minutes up front this year. And with a svelte new body and healthier diet, he should be able to handle the increased minutes.
But before Memphis fans out there go predicting an All-American season, let me forewarn - this isn't the first time we've heard about Niles getting into shape. At right around the same time last year, news started to leak out that John Calipari had been able to whip Niles into shape, as he found himself below 300lb for the first time in a long while.
Not exactly the kind of breakout year some expected. Niles did boost his numbers to 2.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg, and 12.4 mpg (up from his career stats 1.1, 1.5, and 5.6), but he still was a relatively ineffective option off the bench (he only reached double figures once in scoring and twice in rebounding).
So will PHN finally grow into his potential this season?
Who knows, your guess is as good as mine.
But it is also besides the point.
You see, 347lb is not a healthy weight for anyone. Its one thing if you are an offensive lineman - you need that weight in order to earn your paycheck - but it is a completely different beast when you are a 6'8" basketball player that size. Clearly, Niles had some extremely unhealthy habits that, if left unchecked, would not only derail a once promising basketball career, but could endanger his life down the road.
More than the possibility of a professional basketball career, more than the chance to excel at your hometown school, this weight loss makes me believe that Niles could be in for a lifestyle change.
Think about it. In dropping from his heaviest (347) to his current weight (278), Niles lost 20% of his body mass. That is a lot to lose while still keeping up the strength and caloric intake necessary to compete at a high level of basketball.
I want to see Niles turn into the player that everyone thought he would be in high school.
But it is more important for this young man to get himself prepared for a long and healthy life after basketball.
Hopefully, he has done just that.
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