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Analysis:  Vols Land Elite Point Guard in Chandler

The Vols have landed one of the top prospects, at any position, in the nation.  Kennedy Chandler is an elite point guard, and he should fit right in on Rocky Top.

Rick Barnes and his Tennessee Volunteers have been trying to elevate the level of their program over the last several seasons. When Barnes arrived, the Tennessee basketball program was in shambles, with very little in the way of quality play on the court or consistency off of it to point to. Barnes recruited players that fit his system and that he saw potential in, bringing them to Knoxville where he and his staff developed their skills and their talents. The Vols went from a team in disarray to a surprising team in the SEC, growing and ultimately winning an SEC Regular Season Title as players like Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield progressed in their careers. The next season, the Vols took another step, spending time as the top ranked team in the nation as Jordan Bone emerged alongside Williams and Schofield. The Vols struggled at times in the 2019-2020 season before it was cut short, but later in the season Tennessee seemed to find their stride and win big games. In 2020-2021, Tennessee wants to show that they can consistently be one of the elite programs in the nation, competing with and beating the top teams in the nation year in and year out. Perhaps the single most important task in reaching that level is to recruit at an elite level every season, and Tennessee made a statement there, with their 2020 class being the highest rated group of incoming freshmen in program history. In order to become one of the elite programs in the nation, however, the Vols need to consistently land players of that caliber. Tennessee took a huge step in that direction today by securing the commitment of one of best players in the nation, point guard Kennedy Chandler of Sunrise Christian (Wichita, KS), formerly of Briarcrest Christian Academy (Eads, TN).

Chandler announced over the summer that he will be attending Sunrise Christian for his senior season, however at the time of writing he has not played a game for them yet. Thus, this evaluation will be based off his time with Briarcrest Christian. At Briarcrest, the 6’1” 170-pound Chandler developed into one of the top point guards and one of the top players at any position in the 2021 recruiting class. Barnes has a reputation for his work with point guards. He is a noted developer at the position, but he is also notoriously hard on those that play the position for him. In Chandler, Barnes would be working with the highest rated point guard prospect coming out high school that he has coached in his career. One of the areas that Barnes harps on with his point guards is an area that he focuses on for his entire team, playing sound defense. That focus on the defensive end will suit Chandler well, as he thrives on that end of the floor. Chandler has a good wingspan, especially for his size. He has active hands and probes opposing ball handlers, looking to force turnovers and create steals in one-on-one situations based entirely on effort. Chandler creates pressure on opposing point guards and keeps it there, even on what are considered routine or easy parts of the game. When that continued pressure exposes a mistake, Chandler is there to exploit it and capitalize on it. Chandler has good speed, able to stay with and in front of most any point guard he would be asked to defend. The ability to stay in front is helped by his wingspan, which makes him difficult to turn the corner on and drive past. Chandler is also adept at chasing down and blocking shots clean from behind. This all-around attention to detail on defense shows why Barnes has made Chandler such a high priority.

On the offensive end, Chandler fits well into the mold of successful Rick Barnes point guards. Wherever he has been, Barnes has seen the most success when the offense is run through a good distributor at the point that is able to consistently feed productive bigs down low. Chandler displays excellent passing on film and high offensive awareness. He is also used to working with a pair of big men in the post in Rodney Newsome, now an offensive linemen at the University of Memphis, and Tennessee defensive lineman signee Omari Thomas. Chandler is an old school, do-it-all type of point guard. He feels the defense around him when he has the ball, and feels it moving in the framework of the called play or set. Chandler processes that information well, anticipates, and gets the ball to the correct player with a chance to make a play. Chandler is unselfish and creates opportunities for those one the floor with him. He is also capable of creating and getting his own shot. While the top end speed is not quite for Chandler what it is for the Detroit Piston, there are significant similarities in the game of former Vol point guard Jordan Bone and Chandler. Like Bone, Chandler can put the ball on the deck, drive the lane, and finish at the rim. Also, like Bone, Chandler is an effective and dangerous three-point shooter in his own right. He even shows some of the same type of pull-up, mid-range shooting that Bone did so well. The pair have similar skillsets on the offensive end, and those skills create opportunities for themselves as well as their teammates. Chandler arrives in Knoxville far more polished than Bone did, and these comparisons are drawn to a more experienced, seasoned Bone and an incoming freshman in Chandler. The expectations are high for Chandler, but if he can develop under Barnes, he has a chance to live up to and perhaps even exceed them.

Kennedy Chandler is a huge recruit for the Vols to land. Not only is he an elite player in the nation that fits the system in Knoxville, but the Vols beat out the bluebloods of college basketball to land him. Chandler had real offers and significant interest from Duke, Kansas, North Carolina, and Kentucky to name a few. The Vols went head to head on the recruiting trail with college basketball’s elite and won for Chandler. Chandler’s commitment marks the second season in a row the Vols have managed that, and considering Josiah Jordan James was also a top level prospect, could even be the third season in a row that has happened. The Vols want to move into the group of elite programs in the nation and prove they belong there to stay. This is the kind of recruiting that can facilitate that. It is also worth noting that as massive a commitment as Chandler is on his own, he is close with several of the elite players remaining in the 2021 class that the Vols have had as long time, priority targets. Chandler is a huge get for the Vols, but it is realistic to think that he could be the catalyst for a recruiting class that could surpass the group from 2020. While that is still speculation at this point, it feels somewhat poetic that Chandler could already be facilitating big things for the Vols, long before he ever suits up in Thompson Boling Arena.

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