#11 Michigan Advances To The Sweet 16 Defeating #3 Tennessee, Kennedy Chandler
Kennedy Chandler’s debut season in Knoxville has come to a close. The freshman point guard from Memphis had a strong and memorable season at Tennessee, battling through obstacles and adversity to become one of the SEC’s top guards. By the end of his first collegiate season, Chandler had collected a long list of honors including an SEC Tournament MVP and a selection to the All-SEC Second-Team.
Since he arrived in Knoxville, Chandler has been projected as a player that could very well enter the NBA Draft after one season. Just last year, former Tennessee players Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer did the exact same thing. However, Rick Barnes says that from the moment Chandler stepped on campus, he has never acted that way.
“He never, ever made it about him,” Barnes said about Chandler after Tennessee’s loss to Michigan. “I don’t think he ever walked in acting like I’m a one and done player. I don’t think that at all. He came in wanting to win. I think if you would — you probably saw his emotion. It was much more than that in the locker room, because this is a group of guys that are extremely close. They really have bonded in a way that doesn’t often happen anymore. But he got so much better, and I think so much of that had to do with his teammates.”
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As of Monday, Chandler has not made any sort of declaration for the NBA Draft. At the same time, though, the talented guard is still landing on the 2022 NBA mock drafts.
ESPN’s latest mock draft on Monday morning has Tennessee guard Kennedy Chandler projected as the 17th pick in the NBA Draft to the Indiana Pacers. Ironically enough, Tennessee’s two tournament games last weekend in Indianapolis were in the Pacers’ home arena of Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
In addition to ESPN, CBS Sports also had a mock draft, however, theirs came out before the NCAA tournament last Tuesday. Even after a strong showing in the SEC Tournament, CBS Sports was a little lower on Chandler but still had him in the first round. CBS Sports’ projection has Chandler slated as the 25th selection to the Brooklyn Nets.
“Kennedy Chandler is a former five-star recruit with a strong pedigree who has had a pretty good freshman season on the whole,” Kyle Boone wrote for CBS Sports. “He’s leading the Vols in scoring and assists and producing at a pretty respectable level with respect to his shooting numbers. Additionally, his downhill driving ability and quick burst has really opened up Tennessee’s offense. I’m not convinced he’s got the juice to be a starting-caliber lead guard in the NBA because of some decision-making questions and his smaller frame but he’s a fiery competitor on both ends and has held up well in a system under Rick Barnes that hasn’t necessarily been kind to other freshmen in recent years.”
Kennedy Chandler finished the Tennessee season as the Vols’ leading scorer with 13.9 points per game. In addition, Chandler also led Tennessee in assists (4.7) and steals per game (2.2).
The story of Chandler’s season has been well documented by his head coach throughout the year. Chandler got off to a dynamite start as Tennessee’s day-one starting point guard against non-conference competition, even rising to the No. 15 pick in one mock draft from December. However, Chandler’s productivity started to slide as the Vols entered SEC play. As the season went on though, Chandler learned what it was going to take to help lead Tennessee to postseason success. As Barnes noted on the year, Chandler’s improvement in his scouting, on-ball defense and conditioning were all major factors in Tennessee’s SEC Championship run.
During the 2021 NBA Draft, former Tennessee guard Keon Johnson was selected with the No. 21 pick by the Los Angeles Clippers, while fellow guard Jaden Springer was taken a few picks later at No. 28 by the Philadelphia 76ers. Since being drafted, though, Johnson has been traded to the Portland Trail Blazers.
Although nothing is official regarding his future just yet, Chandler is projected to be Tennessee Basketball’s third first-round pick in the last two years. If Tennessee guard Kennedy Chandler is drafted before the 19th pick in the first round, he will be the highest-drafted Volunteer player since Marcus Haislip was drafted at No. 13 in 2002