Tennessee point guard Kennedy Chandler is professional basketball bound, declaring for the NBA Draft Tuesday.
Chandler announced his plans on ESPN before posting a farewell message to Tennessee on Instagram.
“To Coach Barnes, thank you for coaching me with such high standards and holding me accountable to my teammates,” Chandler wrote. “I will miss you guys and cherish the time we spent together. You guys were patient with me and allowed me to lead. To Vol Nation, you are the best fans in college basketball.”
Chandler plans on hiring agent Ryan Davis— foregoing the rest of his collegiate eligibility.
The Memphis, Tennessee native came to Knoxville with more hype than any other prospect in the past decade. As is the case for most freshmen, Chandler had an up-and-down first collegiate season but largely lived up to the hype.
A five-star that ranked as the nation’s No. 9 prospect and No. 1 point guard according to the 247sports composite rankings, Chandler earned Second Team All-SEC honors and All-SEC Freshman honors this winter.
The 6-foot point guard averaged 13.9 points, 4.7 assists and 3.9 rebounds a game while proving to be a defensive menace with his 6-foot-7 wingspan, tallying 2.2 steals per game.
Chandler showed major growth in his lone college season, looking like a completely different player in March compared to November. After his perimeter shooting struggled for a stretch of the pre-conference slate, Chandler ended the season shooting 38% from three-point range.
After the Vols’ loss at Texas the last weekend of January — which players referred to as a turning point in the season — Chandler took his game to the next level averaging 14.8 points and 5.3 assists in the final 15 games of the season.
Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes partially credited the improved play to a conversation Chandler had with former Texas point guard T.J. Ford after the game.
“After the game the other night, I think T.J. took him out on the court at Texas and said hey when you’re here this is where you’re good, this is what you need to be thinking about,” Barnes said. “Young guys relate to players like that. The fact that T.J. would help anybody, I don’t care who it is. … I think it’s the conversations that’ll certainly help Kennedy.”
Chandler’s departure opens the door for fellow Freshman All-SEC point guard Zakai Zeigler to take the reins of Tennessee’s offense next season. The Vols are also pursuing/analyzing a number of guards in the transfer portal including LSU’s Brandon Murray, Kansas State’s Nijel Pack and Belmont’s Will Richard.