St. John's recruiting: getting to know Michael Chandler

Once a 6'10" center prospect that made adults drool and college coaches convince themselves he would stay true to his commit, Michael Chandler is on the edge of memory, a 6'10" "where are they now" anecdote for fans of a number of programs.

Mike Chandler's recruiting commitment history has been spotty, his academics have been a question dogging him through his pre-college career, and his high school years at Lawrence North ended with an ugly incident.

But unlike players who can't decide on a school and fade into oblivion, Chandler has real high-level potential. Besides his inability to decide on a school, and an academic record that has kept him from beginning a college career, Chandler is a player, a true presence in the post.

For that reason, St. John's and other schools are keeping tabs on the big man as he works to get eligible for the 2012 season.

More, below the fold.

Michael Chandler's recruitment history

Mike Chandler didn't start playing basketball in a structured setting until the summer before high school, before attending Indianapolis powerhouse Lawrence North - the alma mater of Greg Oden. He developed his post skills fairly quickly, and attracted attention from Louisville - where he committed as a sophomore - and then Xavier - where he committed as a senior for a month.

Chandler decommitted from Xavier and was rumored to be a package deal with Ryan Boatright to Connecticut (h/t Friarblog); but he mentioned St. John's as one of his schools in the fall/ winter of 2010.

In December of 2010, he committed to Central Florida, saying, "That’s all in the past, but I wish I would have waited instead of backing out of commitments."

Chandler had high-level national attention, attending adidas Nations and the NBA Top 100 camp. But rumors of academic issues and inconsistent effort tarnished his recruitment; colleges knew that he might not make it to a college campus at the end of 2011, and his shine started to diminish.

Chandler had a knucklehead moment in the Indianapolis High School playoffs, getting into a fistfight with a player in the middle of the court near the end of the game (video). With a history of decommits and talk about effort, eyebrows were raised when he left Lawrence North days later, choosing to finish up his high school career with online classes to improve his grade point average for eligibility purposes.

Much like with St. John's trio with academic issues, sexy grades from online classes don't fly with the NCAA. By August, Chandler learned that he would have to attend prep school to qualify for 2012.

And Chandler didn't help matters by being linked to Kenneth Caldwell and Brandon Bender, who were associated both with the University of Central Florida and possibly with a professional agent.

Mike Chandler's choice of UCF seemed to come late enough that Jack Keefer, Chandler's coach at Lawrence North, says he'd "never even heard of Central Florida" before Chandler's commitment.

Still, Chandler worked to get back to the Central Florida Knights, signing a letter of intent again in November of 2011 and working to become eligible in January. Mike Chandler ended up with the postgraduate team of Florida's Faith Baptist Christian School, coached by Kenny Gillion, who also coaches AAU for Florida's Team Breakdown (for whom Kentucky guard Brandon Knight played).

"Everybody is trying to come in on him, he’s a really athletic post player," Gillion said.... "But he tells me he’s going to go to UCF."

Between the signing and December, however, the NCAA instructed UCF to no longer recruit Michael. From the Orlando Sentinel: "We’re still holding out hope maybe it will work itself out and he can still go to UCF," [Michael's uncle] Allan Chandler said. "He loves the school and is very upset right now."

Zagsblog has been on top of Chandler's recruitment, indicating that the NCAA was reviewing Chandler's eligibility documents; the Chandlers were hoping to receive an answer on his eligibility this month.

Chandler's issues have been grades, with talk of his need to develop passion or a mean streak. But for a developing big man without the ball in his hands, it's hard to display passion while working on the cerebral nuances of the post game.

Remember that some evaluators questioned Moe Harkless' streak as well. Chandler and Moe aren't the same person, but it's important to not take questions about a players' desire on the high school level at face value.

The decommitments are a worry, a possible sign of a lack of dedication; but his desire to stick with UCF despite the bad publicity associated with his connection to the school shows a player ready to "settle down", put on a uniform, and start to ball on the college level.

Michael Chandler, the player

We haven't found any statistics for Mike Chandler's prep year, so we can't speak on how he's developing physically or skill-wise. But his potential had some of the nation's best programs piqued, including Oregon, Kentucky, and Indiana.

Chandler's somewhat convoluted school history shouldn't obscure the fact that the big man can undoubtedly play. Some will call him athletic, some will call him skilled. From what I have seen and heard, he's not an incredible wow-level athlete like Andre Drummond of UConn. But he does have actual basketball skill, and a sense of his size.

Chandler and Lawrence North may not have gotten the players' grades and test scores to the level where he could qualify, but for a man who has been playing structured ball for 4-5 years, he shows a very different highlight reel than your regular high schooler.

From Slam Magazine in 2009:

He’s a big, strong, up and coming interior prospect with excellent size, nice length, and a solid physical tool package to build from. The majority of his hype right now is based purely on upside and potential as his skill set is still very raw... He has decent interior rebounding instincts on both ends and has shown the ability to step away from the basket occasionally to 10-12 feet, but footwork, consistency of offensive game, and interior post skills are in the developmental stage right now.

From his coach, back in 2010:

"I don't know if I've had anybody who can score like that (in the post)," said [Lawrence North coach Jack] Keefer, who coached Greg Oden and Eric Montross. "Unlike most kids his size, he has great hands. If you throw the ball wrong, he'll still catch it. Not many big kids can do that. It's part of their awkwardness."

ESPN (2011):

Chandler has great size and is a true center that clogs the lane especially on the defensive end of the floor. He runs pretty well and can and finish on the move well for a player his size.... He scores on drop off passes created by dribble penetration, with his jump hook that he can shoot with either hand or with short shots off the catch in or around the lane. Chandler is a good area shot blocker and rebounder on both ends and can get out of trouble after a defensive rebound with a nice bust out dribble.

Yes, there is talk about his effort, but he discusses his development below; he knows he needs to improve. With a need in the post for the Red Storm, the Johnnies hope that Chandler can become eligible, that he'll settle on St. John's, and that he continues his development.

Michael Chandler Highlights

See: actual post moves at :29, :48, :57, 1:33, 2:00, 2:58 and a Patrick Ewing-esque jumper at 3:22. His highlight reel isn't just a set of breakaway dunks and shots blocked against tiny players.

Another highlight reel:

Quick interview adidasNations

Long interview with Daniel Poneman:

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