Tennessee has positioned themselves well to land the top point guard in the 2021 class. In fact, one national analyst believes the Vols are currently the team to beat for his services.
Kennedy Chandler is a five-star point guard from Memphis, and he’s been a huge priority for Tennessee’s coaching staff for years. 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.
According to Corey Evans of Rivals.com, Tennessee is out in front of those blue bloods for Chandler right now.
In an interview with The Lexington Herald-Leader, Evans broke down Kentucky basketball’s chances at landing several recruits in the 2021 cycle, including Chandler.
But Evans’ feelings about Chandler weren’t what Wildcat fans want to hear.
“I think Tennessee is definitely the team to beat right now,” Evans said.
The Vols’ situation at point guard could set up very nicely for Chandler in the 2021-22 season. Santiago Vescovi will be playing his sophomore season this upcoming year, but he’s the only true point guard on UT’s roster. Chandler will have a chance to play immediately and in a large role at Tennessee even if Vescovi remains on the roster beyond this upcoming season.
For Kentucky, four-star point guard and top-50 prospect Devin Askew joins the roster for the 2020-21 season, but he isn’t projected as a one-and-done type of player. Add in the fact that Duke could have a crowded backcourt in 2021, and Evans thinks Tennessee has the edge currently.
“Honestly, Kennedy and (Askew) complement each other,” Evans explained. “It would be a smaller backcourt, but it would be more than a serviceable one.”
But Evans still believes the Vols are out in front.
“I think the Vols are in a very, very, very good spot right now.”
According to the 247Sports Composite ranking, the talented point guard out of Memphis is the No. 11 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 earlier this offseason 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.
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.
Chandler isn’t the only high-profile prospect the Vols have a legitimate shot at landing in the 2021 cycle, though.
Fellow five-star Paolo Banchero — the No. 1 power forward in the 2021 class — has also included Tennessee as one of his top teams, and both Chandler and Banchero have expressed interest in playing together at the collegiate level.
Right now, Evans believes Kentucky is the slight favorite for Banchero, but that could change at any moment.
“I think it’s less clear cut,” Evans said of Kentucky being Banchero’s perceived leader. “I think Kentucky is in a good spot, but it’s been nine months since he visited Kentucky, and a lot can happen.”
As of right now, Evans sees Kentucky and Duke in the top two spots for Banchero with Tennessee lying in third. The Seattle power forward has said that playing away from home for college won’t be a big deal for him. Playing alongside an elite point guard is a big appeal to Banchero, and with him and Chandler being good friends, that bodes well for the Vols if the five-star point guard picks UT.
Playing with a dynamic point guard isn’t the only thing Banchero is looking for, though.
“He’s been adamant about playing on the biggest stage,” Evans said. “And, as we know, it’s nearly indisputable that the biggest stage in college basketball — at least for the past several years — has been Kentucky. So that has him thinking about that program, for sure.”
The 6-foot-9, 235-pound athlete is rated as the No. 4 overall prospect and No. 1 power forward in the 2021 cycle per the 247Sports Composite rankings. Both he and Chandler visited Tennessee’s campus together on an official visit back on October 25th of last year. Banchero has also officially visited North Carolina (Sept. 27), Kentucky (Oct. 11), Duke (Oct. 18), and Gonzaga (Jan. 17).
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 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.