Updated: Jul 9, 2020
There are some definite athletic parallels between football and basketball. Both require speed, quick decision making, good hands and leaping ability. A point guard is most often compared to a quarterback, though if one were to make a metaphorical comparison on superior athleticism, it would typically be for a running back or wide receiver. Kennedy Chandler sees himself as a slot receiver, as he is blessed with those athletic gifts. However, when you see him on the court, the quarterbacking skills really come to the forefront.
Chandler’s creativity and vision as a passer also apply to his finishing near the basket. His vertical athleticism helps him play bigger than his height and he has great body control. When you watch him, you see his penchant for getting into the lane, finishing off foot lay-ups and floaters, while also having the ability to create space for his jumpshot. On top of this, Chandler also could have seen himself playing cornerback, which manifests itself in how he’s a constant menace on the defensive end, playing the passing lanes and using his length on-ball to create turnovers.
It is a shame that Chandler may not get the chance to defend his EYBL Peach Jam championship, as he was a major reason MOKAN Elite (MO) won the 2019 title. Chandler was one of the revelations of the EYBL season last year, while also ingraining himself in USA basketball camps and garnering numerous accolades for his play at Briarcrest Christian School (TN) during the 2019-20 high school season.
Currently fighting amongst a few competitors to be the top point guard in the high school class of 2021, Chandler is set to choose among some of the top college programs in the nation. In this interview, he breaks down his final five schools, his family’s interaction with the G-League developmental program, his love for sport, what went into choosing an AAU program, his connection to his hometown, the review of his high school season, and much more.
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present 2021 prospect Kennedy Chandler, from Memphis, Tennessee:
Pro Insight: Tell us about your background and your story.
Kennedy Chandler: I’m from Memphis, Tennessee. I’ve been here my whole life. I’ve been going to Briarcrest Christian School since I was in second grade. I played football and basketball and ran a little track in middle school. I stopped playing football in third or fourth grade. I knew that I just wanted to continue to work on basketball and get better at basketball everyday. Looking where I’m at right now, I just have to keep on working.
PI: What events did you run in track?
KC: I ran the 4x200, 4x100, 100, and long jump.
PI: Tell us a little bit about your family. Do you have any siblings or family members that play (or played) sports?
KC: I have my mom, my stepmom, my dad, one sister, and my grandparents. My dad is a manager at FedEx. My stepmom works at McKesson in medicine. My mom also works in Memphis. My sister played basketball growing up, but decided to go to Memphis for school. She lives in Nashville now where she has worked for Smith+Nephew in the medical field. My dad played basketball at Hamilton High School and went to LeMoyne-Owen College in Memphis as a student. My granddad played basketball, baseball, and football in high school.
PI: Have you been a University of Memphis fan since you were little? What about the Grizzlies?
KC: I was a University of Memphis fan growing up. My dad used to take me to a lot of Memphis games when I was young. We went to a lot of Grizzlies games too. I used to go to Memphis camps when John Calipari was the coach. Derrick Rose is probably the most notable player I’ve seen at Memphis. I’ll always be a fan of Memphis as my hometown team, and I’ll always root them on.
PI: What’s your favorite thing about the city of Memphis?
KC: Just the city being a city that loves sports. Whether it’s basketball or football. That’s one thing I love about Memphis.
PI: You had a great season and came up just short from winning state, finishing as the runner-up to Knoxville Catholic and BJ Edwards. Walk us through this past season. What did you enjoy most? What did you learn?
KC: We knew it was going to be a tough season because we had a tough schedule. I knew this team was built for it because we had a tough schedule last year, and most of the team this year were seniors. We had a tough schedule, playing against IMG, going to the City of Palms, and playing some other tough teams. We fought hard and won some tough games.
PI: Was there a tough time this season that your team had to fight through adversity to get through?
KC: At the City of Palms, we didn’t play so well. We came back and beat IMG the next couple of days. We knew we had to come back and get a win after City of Palms.
PI: What drew you to play with MOKAN Elite on the EYBL circuit?
KC: Well, my dad spoke a lot with me about it. I was going to play with Hoop City on the Adidas circuit, which was Mike Miller’s team. But my dad said I really need to get my name out there and play on the Nike circuit. I flew down there and watched their practice and met the coaches. I talked with the head coach to see how I fit in, and turned out, I really liked it. I knew it was going to be a big move for me because I was going to be flying down there every weekend to practice. That was the biggest sacrifice I have taken, that whole year.
PI: MOKAN is known as one of the best programs in AAU — what makes them special?
KC: The way the organization is built. Everything was organized. Nothing was late in being organized. They always let us know a week out what things were going on. I really liked the program.
PI: Describe your game. What are your strengths?
KC: My game is to find my teammates that are open. I’m a leader, a point guard, and I’m going to get everybody involved. I can score the ball as well, but I’m going to try to find my teammates and get everyone involved first. I’m a defensive guy, too. That’s what turns my offensive game on.
PI: What are some things you’ve been paying a lot of attention to improving in your game?
KC: Working on my floaters. They’re good, but I could get them better. Really working on my mid-range, and shooting deeper. My ball-handling too.
PI: What do you love most about the game of basketball?
KC: It’s a sport I love and grew up with. I really love basketball. It was my first love. I really loved football as well, but I knew that I had to stick with one sport. If I could play football right now, I still would, but I know I need to play one sport, so I’m sticking with basketball.
PI: What’s your all-time greatest memory on the court and why?
KC: Winning the state championship last year for Briarcrest. They hadn’t won one in a while, and that was my first state championship. That was probably the best memory I had. I felt great, because we had lost the previous year in the Final Four. The refs called a foul with 0.8 seconds left when a kid on my team dove for a loose ball. They made a free throw and won. Briarcrest hadn’t won a state championship in a long time, so I really wanted to win one for the school.
PI: What has your training regiment been like during quarantine and how has it changed as restrictions are lifted?
KC: I’ve been trying to work out and stay in shape. Gyms just opened so I’m going to the gym now. Before that, I was just running and working out outside. My trainer gave me some tools to use and that’s what I did.
PI: Are there any Netflix shows you binged during the quarantine?
KC: I’ve been watching Vampire Diaries and Outer Banks. Outer Banks is really good. It’s interesting. I don’t know if the man killed his father! I’m waiting for season 2. It’s really good.
PI: What do you miss most from the ‘pre-COVID’ world and why?
KC: Hanging out with friends. School is almost over and we still have to stay home. I want to keep going to the gym.
PI: Are you on TikTok?
KC: I’m always on TikTok. I’ve been making TikToks and posting. Especially since quarantine. That’s all I’ve been doing. My TikTok name is the same as Instagram. (_kennedychandler1)
PI: Who’s the toughest player you’ve had to guard so far in your career?
KC: Probably Sharife Cooper. Or RJ Davis. They’re so shifty and fast. I guarded Sharife Cooper twice in EYBL last year. One game he didn’t do so good and I played really good against him. The next game, he just killed me. He had like 24 or 22. He’s a tough player to guard. He knows how to draw fouls. I fouled out that game and we lost that game in the Peach Jam.
PI: Do you watch more college basketball or NBA?
KC: It all depends what’s on.
PI: Do you model your game after anyone in particular?
KC: I like to watch Chris Paul and Kyrie Irving. I love the way Chris Paul guards bigger defenders and his pick and roll game. I love how Kyrie finishes around the rim.
PI: Talk a little about your relationship with Paolo Banchero. How did that come about?
KC: We just built a relationship during USA training camp. We just really bonded and had a good connection. It was me, him, and Jaden Hardy all on the same team. We had a really good connection, me and Paolo. We played together and would just dominate. That’s how our bond started. We talked a lot. We got each other’s info and started texting. That’s how we became so close.
PI: Have you ever gotten to play against him outside of Team USA?
KC: Not yet. Hopefully we will if we get to play this summer.
PI: What do you need to focus on in preparation for the NBA?
KC: Just getting better every day. Working every day and getting stronger to achieve my dreams.
PI: If you had to pick one, what skill would you hang your hat on in the NBA?
KC: The way I finish around the rim and my speed. Because I have a nice speed to the game and I’m really fast. I feel like my finishing around the rim is unstoppable and nobody can stop me from finishing.
PI: Let’s talk about where you’re at in your recruiting process. Break down for us what has attracted you to each of your top-five schools: (Duke, Kentucky, Memphis, Tennessee, UNC)
KC: Duke - Duke has always been a dream school for me. I love Duke and Coach K. The way the program is built and what he’s done for all of Duke University. I’ve seen players come out of Duke and do really great things. Kyrie Irving, Tyus Jones, Tre Jones, Quinn Cook. He’s had really good point guards come out there.
Kentucky - Kentucky always brings ‘Cats into the league. That’s what they do. I know Coach Calipari will hold me accountable. He told me that there’s no guarantee for a starting spot and that you have to fight for your position in practice. That’s what I like about him. I’d have to fight for my position, go hard every day in practice and get better every day.
Memphis - It’s my hometown. I’ve known Penny for a long time. I’ve known him ever since I was little. I watched him coach in high school and middle school. I played AAU for his AAU team and he watched me play. I really have a good relationship with him. I also play with Mike Miller’s son so I have a good connection with him as well.
UNC - Roy Williams has been recruiting me really hard and calling me a lot. For in-school visits, he’s come and seen me the most, so I really appreciate him for coming to see me a lot during practices and games. I’ve also seen good point guards that come out of there like Coby White, he’s got Caleb Love coming this year, and Cole Anthony. I like the style of play they play and the way he lets the guards loose.
Tennessee - I feel like everyone did not expect them to be there, but I’ve always had a great relationship with them ever since my official visit and them calling me and texting me. I’ve built a really good connection with them and I can help keep turning that program around.
PI: What’s been the most memorable moment you’ve had on a recruiting visit?
KC: Meeting fan bases from all the colleges that really want you to come there. They say your name and you’re shocked that they even know who you are. That’s what I’ve remembered most. Also watching the games and watching the fans go crazy. Everyone knew who I was at all the schools I visited.
PI: How do you envision the rest of your recruitment playing out in terms of narrowing down your list and with overall timing?
KC: I’m not going to narrow my list again, but I’m trying to see how this all plays out because I plan to take five official visits to all of my top five schools and go from there. That’s my plan, to wait, take my five officials in the fall and then see when the best time for me to commit is.
PI: You’ve also talked about how the G-League has approached you about bypassing college and entering their development program. What have they told you are the pros and cons of their program?
KC: They haven’t really talked to me, more to my dad. I know they wanted me to join after my senior year of high school. It really would have been a big move for me to join them, but I knew that my goal is to go to college, so that’s where I’m going.
PI: Would you say you rely more on your natural talent or your work ethic? Why?
KC: My work ethic. My work ethic always defines what I’m going to do on the court. However you work out is how you’re going to do on the court. My work ethic is really good. I work out twice a day, grind every day, but also get some recovery in and make sure there are some days off. I feel like that's what proves who I am.
PI: At what point in your life did your work ethic take the next step to where you were really getting serious about basketball?
KC: Probably in middle school around my seventh or eighth grade year. Then it improved every year in ninth and tenth grade and I kept getting better every day. In eighth grade, I started playing against even bigger guys. I always played up my whole life and never played my age group. My eighth grade year, playing against ninth graders in EYBL, I wasn’t as strong as I am now. I was weak. I was working out, but I knew I had to go harder and harder every day and get stronger.
PI: Do you have any mentor figures in your life? What is the most important advice you’ve gotten from them?
KC: My father. He’s always been a mentor to me, pushing me every day. He tells me I need to go harder and what I need to do hard. He’s always been the biggest mentor in my life. The best advice he’s given me is, ‘don’t stop working, don’t let anyone tell you what you can or can’t do, and just try to achieve your goals, because you can make the NBA if it’s your goal and you work hard.’
PI: What are four words that best describe Kennedy Chandler?
KC: Funny. Hard-working. Leader. Accountable.
PI: What pushes you to go hard every day?
KC: That’s just something I always want to do. I want to do stuff for my family and my community. My family always pushes me to go hard and make it to the NBA. I want to do stuff for them and give back since they’ve done so much for me. They pay for trips, food, and everything for me.
PI: What’s your biggest passion/hobby outside of basketball?
KC: Watching movies and hanging out with my family and friends. I don’t get to hang out with my friends so much since I’m so busy. If I’m not working out, I’m probably on the game with my friends. Or we’ll go out to eat and chill. My friends and I go to Sonic or Huey’s. We like all the Memphis BBQ spots too. I don’t have a favorite.
PI: What is your biggest pet peeve?
KC: People who talk behind my back. People talk for no reason and try to start arguments for no reason. Kids do what they do and grownups will just talk bad about other kids. Let the kids play and be who they are.
PI: Tell us something about yourself that most people have no idea about.
KC: I’d rather play football than basketball. That’s a sport I really love. Most of my friends are football guys. I have some friends, one going to Tennessee for football, one going to Tulane, one going to Memphis, and one going to Austin Peay. I have a cousin in the NFL, Chris Harris Jr., who’s a defensive back who just got traded from the Broncos to the Chargers. There’s football all around my family. That’s something people don’t know about me.
PI: What position would you be if you still played football?
KC: Probably slot receiver or cornerback. I’m just athletic and I feel like I could play cornerback or slot. If I played corner I’d get Chris to help me out.
PI: Since you’re so into football, do you have a favorite NFL or college team?
KC: Not really. I really follow the players. I had a Broncos jersey, but I need to get a Chargers one for my cousin. In college, I was a huge Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb fan. Jalen Hurts also.
PI: Describe your life 10 years from now.
KC: Hopefully I’m in the NBA, working hard every day, getting better, and providing for my family. I want to make sure they’re good and settled. That’s probably my life then. Having a really nice family, taking care of them and enjoying my life.
PI: At the end of the day, what do you want to be remembered for?
KC: I want to be remembered for how great a person I was, as a great leader, and what I did for Memphis. I want to be known as someone who wasn’t bad or arrogant, but a great leader and great person.
Watch the full interview with Kennedy, here