In Tennessee basketball's first week of the season, the Vols knocked off UT Martin and East Tennessee State University to begin the season 2-0.
A big reason why? Freshman point guard Kennedy Chandler.
On Tuesday, Chandler electrified Thompson Boling-Arena in his Tennessee debut against UT Martin, scoring 20 points with four assists and a 100% shooting percentage from beyond the arc. The Memphis native followed up the impressive performance with a 16-point first half against ETSU before taking a back seat in the second half when the Vols were on cruise control. Chandler also tacked on three steals to his stat line in game two.
Chandler's impressive speed, improved defensive play, and playmaking ability have caught the attention of all watching Tennessee hoops, and the Sunrise Christian product earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors for his performances.
(See tweet below)
Chandler is shooting 6 of 7 from three-point range, giving the Vols an excellent option from beyond the arc in addition to shooters Victor Bailey Jr. and Justin Powell.
ETSU head coach Desmond Oliver was overwhelmed with Chandler's performance against his Buccaneers on Sunday.
“When the game started, and I started watching them dribble through people, and drop dimes, and make threes, I’m sitting there and I’m like, ‘Wow, name a point guard in America who’s better than him’. I asked my staff that question, and guys couldn’t figure it out. I always tell people, if a name doesn’t come up fast, then there isn’t any. Anytime you have a guy that’s considered the best in the country at something, you’re pretty elite.”
UT head coach Rick Barnes also touched on Chandler's growth as a teammate and leader.
“I think that I would describe him as having a great respect for his teammates. He really believes in his teammates. There isn’t any sense of entitlement on his part in any way shape or form. He is competitive, but he wants to see everyone do well. He would tell you that he’s learning a lot. I would tell you that he has so much more that he can give, and he will learn, he is making a lot of fix-it plays for us on the offensive end and I think he can do the same thing on the defensive end. He wasn't very good defensively against UT Martin, he wasn't. Everyone is looking at him scoring but from where we have great guys out, but the last three days, in the practices that we have had, he has been tremendous. Working on anything we ask him to do, and today he came in totally different, I am talking on the defensive end. What makes him special is that he is very unselfish, he is all about the team all the way. His teammates, they know it is not about him, and he has never made it about him. I think that when you have the ability that he has, he is going to continue to learn so much more as time goes on. I told him he’s going to get in game plan more and more as the years go on, with that being said, you have to fight for every inch you get on that court and fight on both ends.”
From what the coaches said and how Chandler has played in two games, it is hard to imagine this is the last time Chandler will earn SEC Weekly freshman honors.
Through the Vols' first two games, Chandler leads the team in scoring average, field goal percentage and assists.
The five-star's honor marks the 19th time a Tennessee player has earned SEC weekly honor during the six years Rick Barnes has been at the helm.
Chandler's 17th-ranked Tennessee Volunteers will take on the fifth-ranked Villanova Wildcats on Saturday, November 20, at 1 p.m. ET in Uncasville, Connecticut on ESPN News.
Photo Credit: UT Athletics
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