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Memphis-Made Chandler Landed in the Perfect Place

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The city of Memphis has produced various talented players in recent history. Names like Penny Hardaway, Elliot Perry, Lorenzen Wright and many others all hail from the Bluff City. Even though he’s not technically from Memphis, Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum played AAU ball in Memphis for a little while, too.

Enter Kennedy Chandler, an incoming rookie born in Cordova. One of the most exciting prospects from Memphis in some time, could he be on the way to etching his name into all-time Memphis great?

High School Honors

He was one of the most sought after recruits in the class of 2021. According to ESPN, he was ranked as the best point guard in the country and tenth overall player. Chandler began his high school career at Briarcrest Christian School, the same high school former NFL star Michael Oher attended.

Kennedy thrived at BCS, averaging 22.2 points a game along with 4.3 assists and 2.6 steals per game as a junior. After leading the Saints to a state runner-up finish in his junior season, Chandler decided to make the switch to Sunrise Christian Academy, a basketball juggernaut in Wichita, Kansas.

In a pandemic-affected season in 2020-2021, Chandler averaged 14.8 points per game with 3.3 steals per game in 13 games while shooting 57% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc. Even with the dip in production, Chandler’s signature was relentlessly chased by multiple blue-bloods including Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, his hometown Memphis Tigers, and the Tennessee Volunteers who he would eventually sign with.

Home In Rocky Top

Chandler went one and done at Tennessee, as many figured he would if he stayed healthy. In his lone season in Knoxville, Chandler averaged 13.9 points per game along with 4.7 APG. His shooting splits were a little worrying, averaging just 46.4% from the field and a troubling 60.6% from the free throw line.

He played and started in 34 games his freshman year, leading the Vols to a 27-8 record which was just behind Auburn for first place. The Vols would go on to win the SEC Tournament, however, where Chandler averaged 14.6 PPG, 5 APG and 1.3 steals per game. He also included a 19 point game in the semi-final against Kentucky and finished as the tournament MVP.

Chandler was ninth in scoring in the SEC with 473 total points and fifth in total assists, tallying 161. He also was second in the conference and eighth in the country in total steals with a whopping 74.

Although his scoring ability is there, Chandler’s game isn’t necessarily geared toward being a scorer, but rather is more along the lines of being a true point guard. He possesses terrific court vision as well as excellent game management skills, which absolutely contributed to him being a first-year starter for the Vols.

What’s really promising is that his game looks to translate to the next level due to his elite speed and athletic ability. At just six feet tall, Chandler plays well above his height and has that gamer mentality that is well-associated with the Grizzlies’ style.

Needless to say, he’ll fit right in back in his hometown.

Becoming a Grizzly

Early on in the draft process, Chandler rose as high as a late lottery pick, with many thinking he would fall in that 22-30 range with the Grizzlies possibly nabbing him there. Originally in our pre-draft breakdown here at Grizz Lead, yours truly had Memphis picking him at #29, a good value for the money.

This was not the case, however. Chandler fell out of the first round to 38th overall where the Grizzlies made the call. Memphis traded for him in exchange for a future second-round pick and cash considerations.

Just like that Chandler was back home, where he was welcomed by his friend and mentor Ja Morant. In fact, multiple reports say that it was Morant who informed Chandler of his acquisition by Memphis, much to the delight Chandler and his family.

Being drafted by your hometown team has numerous benefits that go beyond the on-court product. Even though he’s moved around a lot at such a young age, playing in his hometown with his family and friends in the seats will provide a sense of comfortability for Chandler. In fact, it’s essentially like he’s been part of the team for years due to his friendship with Ja.

Even before stepping foot on the court, Chandler has made history. In his rookie contract, Chandler agreed to the largest guaranteed deal for a second-round pick in the history of American sports at $4.94 million guaranteed.

Judging by this alone, it seems that Zach Kleiman and the Grizzlies have big plans for the rookie point guard.

The Road Ahead

Having Morant as his teammate and mentor couldn’t be better not only for Chandler, but for the Grizzlies, as well. Much of what makes the Grizzlies successful is how strong of a bond this team has with one another. They still are one of the youngest teams in the league and have instilled one of the best cultures in the league.

But arguably the most important factor in the Grizzlies locker room is that everyone wants to win. Now yes, that is the goal for every player and every other team in the NBA. But the Grizzlies are not every other team in the NBA.

Their need to beat every team and not let them forget about it in the process is what makes Memphis tick. Only winners and pure gamers are wanted in Memphis, and Kennedy Chandler is just that.

While he had an underwhelming Summer League, averaging just nine points per game on 31% shooting, the only way is up for Chandler. Playing behind Ja and Tyus Jones will benefit him greatly, as the loss of De’Anthony Melton to the 76ers over the summer will allow Chandler to get some spot minutes this year.

As the Grizzlies have shown with the development of Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane, Chandler will be well-equipped to improve his game on a winning team. With Tyus Jones extending his stay in Memphis another two years, Chandler will have time to develop and eventually step into that backup point guard role should Jones leave.

Although he won’t likely have a major role this season, Chandler can still take the first steps towards a bright future in his hometown.

CRAVING MORE GRIZZLIES?

Check out this week’s other Deep Dive Piece on David Roddy by Andrew Hanissian (@AndrewHanissian), Can Roddy Contribute for the Grizzlies This Season?. And be sure to check out the Grizz 901 Podcast, where the Grizz Lead guys get on to discuss these Deep Dive players and much, much more!

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