Recruiting for Tennessee’s men’s basketball program has hit a whole new level under head coach Rick Barnes. The Vols have signed three five-stars over the last two recruiting cycles, and UT looks poised to potentially land a few more five-stars in the 2021 class.
According to one recruiting analyst, the Vols currently lead for one of those five-stars.
Corey Evans of Rivals.com was asked to try and predict Duke’s 2021 recruiting class. Right now, the Blue Devils hold a commitment from five-star wing AJ Griffin and have offered only a dozen prospects in the 2021 cycle. One of the recruits who holds an offer from Duke is Kennedy Chandler, the five-star point guard from Memphis. Tennessee has made Chandler one of their top priorities in the 2021 cycle, but Duke has been recruiting him just as hard.
Evans, however, believes the Vols will win out. At least, for now.
“In the backcourt, the Blue Devils have prioritized Max Christie, Kennedy Chandler, and Trevor Keels,” Evans wrote. “If I had to make a prediction, I think Christie will choose Michigan State, Chandler will ink with Tennessee, and Keels will either head to Villanova or Virginia. Obviously, a lot can change between now and the fall, and it’s never smart to count out the Blue Devils, but that’s how things stand right now.”
According to the 247Sports Composite ranking, the talented point guard out of Memphis is the No. 13 overall prospect, No. 1 point guard, and No. 1 recruit in the state of Tennessee in the 2021 class. Chandler played for Briarcrest Christian the last few years, but he announced late last month that he will be transferring to Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas for his final year of high school.
Tennessee, Michigan, Syracuse, Ole Miss, and Florida State have all gotten official visits from Chandler, and Kentucky got him on an unofficial trip in February along with Duke getting him on campus for an unofficial visit in January.
At the end of April, Chandler trimmed his list of top 10 teams down to just five, and the Vols made the cut along with Duke, Kentucky, Memphis, and North Carolina.
Rick Barnes and his coaching staff have made Chandler a big point of emphasis in the 2021 cycle for quite a while now. Not only has Chandler taken visits to UT’s campus in person, but Tennessee’s staff have conducted multiple calls with the five-star guard since the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily shut down recruiting visits.
The Vols are positioned well for Chandler, and he’s also good friends with fellow five-star Paolo Banchero, the No. 1 power forward in the 2021 class. The two have talked about potentially playing together in college, and both five-star prospects visited Knoxville together in October on official visits.
Evans also chimed in on Banchero, but he doesn’t see the two teaming up at Tennessee at this time.
“This all leads things to Paolo Banchero,” Evans continued. “I will side with Kentucky for now, but Duke is involved, and I also wouldn’t count out Washington or Tennessee.”
According to Chandler’s father, Kylan Chandler, the top point guard in the 2021 class is aiming to make a college commitment sometime this fall.
“He’s not going to wait his whole senior year to make a decision. He’ll make it this fall, like maybe November,” Kylan Chandler said in a recent interview with Larry Vaught of Marshall County Daily. “He wants to make a couple of visits when he can. After that he wants to make a decision. He doesn’t want to go his whole senior year worrying about where’s going to school.”
As a sophomore for Briarcrest Christian, Chandler averaged 19.5 points, four rebounds, 3.6 steals, and three assists per game according to MaxPreps. He was also voted TSSAA Division II Class AA Mr. Basketball for both his sophomore season and his junior season this past year, winning the title in back-to-back years. As a junior, Chandler averaged 22.2 points and 4.3 assists. He helped lead Briarcrest to the state title game where they lost 50-47 to Knoxville Catholic. Chandler totaled 13 points and five assists in the game.
During the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League in April through July of last year, Chandler played for the MOKAN Elite squad. In 19 total games during the EYBL, Chandler averaged 14.7 points, 5.9 assists, 4.2 rebounds, and 2.2 steals a game while shooting 50.5 percent overall, 31.1 percent from three, and 72.9 percent from the free throw line according to D1Circuit.com.
In football, Tennessee signed two players who went to the same high school as Chandler and are friends with him. Four-star defensive tackle Omari Thomas and three-star running back Jabari Small attended Briarcrest Christian, and both signed with the Vols in the 2020 class in football.
Tennessee doesn’t have a prospect committed to them in their 2021 class at the moment, but the Vols did sign an elite group of prospects in the 2020 cycle. Five-star guards Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson were joined by four-star forward Corey Walker Jr. in signing with Tennessee in the fall signing period for the 2020 class. The Vols are targeting a number of five-star prospects in the 2021 cycle besides just Chandler and Banchero, such as Harrison Ingram, Charles Bediako, and Jabari Smith.