I recently posted about Kennedy Chandler and the comments his father made on the possibility of Chandler committing before his senior year basketball season gets started.
In that post, I mentioned that there’s an unofficially unspoken narrative which insists Chandler’s decision is mostly a two-team race between Duke and Tennessee.
Somebody emailed me a response to that story, telling me that I shouldn’t count out the home-town Tigers, and as evidence supporting that notion, he or she sent me a video of Chandler playing pickup basketball, in Grind City, with a veritable who’s who of West Tennessee hoops. Just for the record: the video was uploaded June 10, 2020.
Below is a still from the beginning of the video for identification purposes. Chandler is wearing black shorts and a grey shirt labeled “Sunrise,” for the school in Kansas to where Chandler is transferring for his senior year. That’s 2019 No. 2 overall pick and Memphis Grizzlies’ point guard Ja Morant standing to Chandler’s right. In most of the video, Morant is easy to spot because of his black shorts with white polka dots. Well, he’s easy to notice because of the shorts and because of the nasty windmill dunks he throws down. I reckon those are just about a dead giveaway.
I’m going to copy and paste the video’s caption because it gives a list of some of the other guys playing. It’s up to you to match faces with names.
Watch Ja Morant, of the Memphis Grizzlies, and Kennedy Chandler compete in this private run filled with Division I and NBA level talent. Players include Cameron Payne, Tyler Stone, Davonte Pack, Dayton’s Jalen Crutcher, Memphis’ Malcolm Dandridge, Memphis’ DJ Jeffries, Memphis’ Alex Lomax, IMG’s Matthew Murrell, and Memphis East’s Duane Posey. The run was hosted by Jevonte Holmes.
The video starts out with two clips: First is Morant throwing down the aforementioned windmill dunk. Second, Chandler puts a slick spin move on Morant and then goes up for a Lebron-James-style tomahawk slam. Lucky for the victim, a young man in all black, the video cuts out before the deed is done. Here’s a screenshot anyway.
There’s no real reason to pick apart what’s in the video since it’s just a pickup game. But — this is pretty high-level basketball for a pickup run, and there’s some serious talent on the floor. So, I’ll touch on few things real quick-like, but again, this is pickup basketball, and it’s a much different animal from college or the NBA. These are just a few observations — I’m not making any black and white declarations about anybody’s abilities or futures. For specific situations, I’ll note the time in the video so that anybody can watch along with me if they want.
Chandler is really, really good. I mean, not that it needed to be said or that anybody had any doubts. But in this video, he absolutely belongs on the floor with this run full of elite talent.
At the :47 mark, Chandler gets the outlet pass on the right wing. He uses a pick to get around his man, but the defense switches and that gives Chandler a quickness mismatch. He uses the threat of a drive with a hesitation move/ ball fake to get the defender on his heels. Then he creates about 3 feet of space with a step-back and drills the shot. That’s an advanced combination of moves and good IQ or instincts to know when to use them. He’s rhythmic and not rushed with his movements. It all just... flows.
At the 1:17 mark, Chandler brings the ball up-court and passes it to the left wing. That guy passes it back, and knowing the defense is trailing him, Chandler pump fakes to get the defender in the air. The defender bites and jumps past. Then Chandler uses another hesitation move to draw the defense back in close so he can drive by. His hesitation sells are great — he gets his whole body into the move to really drive home the deception. Then he just glides in for an easy bucket.
He’s listed at 6-foot-1, 160, and I’ve seen some concerns about playing at the next level with a slight frame. He doesn’t look slight in this video. He’s a bit smaller than most of these grown men, but it’s not like he stands out for how little he is.
A bit unrelated, but: Ja Morant is so damn good at basketball. It seems like he’s going at about, maybe, 65-75 percent here, and he’s still quite obviously the best player on the court. He’s fearless going up — if he has to adjust in midair, he does, but the ball is going in or it’s going to an open player. Every time. He’s been working on his range, too. The video shows him dropping in 3s from about 30 or 40 feet with ease.
Let’s circle back to Chandler’s recruitment and Tennessee’s chances. Within the last week, 247 Sports analyst Corey Evans was asked about Duke’s 2021 recruiting class and explained who the Blue Devils’ top targets are. Doing so, he said he thinks Chandler ends up a Vol.
In the backcourt, the Blue Devils have prioritized Max Christie, Kennedy Chandler and Trevor Keels. 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.
Evans also dropped in a tidbit about another Tennessee target, Paolo Banchero.
“This all leads things to Paolo Banchero,” Evans said. “I will side with Kentucky for now, but Duke is involved and I also wouldn’t count out Washington or Tennessee.”
It’s clear Chandler has Memphis connections. He’s from there and has played there his entire life. But while this pickup game was fun to watch, I don’t think it’s any indication as to where he decides to play college ball.