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Kennedy Chandler dazzles in Tennessee debut

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NCAA Basketball: Lenoir Rhyne Bears at Tennessee Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee basketball hit the ground running on Saturday, beating Lenoir-Rhyne in a scrimmage 103-62. It was a chance for everyone to see the new look Vols play together for the first time, and also our first live look at five-star freshman point guard Kennedy Chandler.

He didn’t disappoint.

Tennessee was lacking a true creator on last year’s team. The Vols sputtered offensively down the stretch because of that, along with a lack of shooting. Kennedy Chandler is just what the doctor ordered.

Chandler was aggressive from the opening tip, pushing the pace and getting buckets. There was no hesitation from the freshman point guard as he poured in 21 points — 18 of which came in the first half alone.

“He’s got a feel,” Rick Barnes said of Chandler after the game. “He’s got a great burst of energy. And as he learns to control his speed and his pace, we often talk to him about the difference in driving on a freeway and driving in New York City. He’s going to have to figure out the two of them at a time. He’ll get that. But right now he’s somewhere in between.”

Chandler’s pace felt similar to what Jordan Bone brought to the table back in 2018-19. If you’ll remember, it took Bone a while to settle in and play with that pace consistently. That doesn’t seem to be the case here though. Chandler had his foot on the gas with the ball, and wasn’t afraid to fire away when he got the look he wanted.

He ended the day shooting 8-10 from the field, including 4-5 from three point range. He also added five rebounds and six assists.

“He certainly, like most young guys, has to continue to learn to get better away from the ball,” Barnes said. “Like today, we had him in a situation near halfcourt in the first half. He let his guy, where he was way overzealous, let a guy back-cut him from 40 feet, 45 feet. He wants to learn. He’s constantly asking me questions. What do I need to do? What do I need to do?”

As an offense, Tennessee had a different approach on Saturday. They shot 46 three-pointers and connected on 17 of them, shooting their way past Lenoir-Rhyne. It was the most attempts from three-point range since 2007 for the Vols, who appear to have adjusted their offense for this season.

We’ll see if that strategy sticks going forward. If it does, expect a huge year from Kennedy Chandler, who will be pulling the strings in what could be a wide open offense.

Tennessee’s first game that counts will be on November 9th against UT-Martin.