- HIGHSCHOOL - Chandler is the center of attention

Wednesday, July 16
Chandler is the center of attention

Tyson Chandler is looking into the future. He can see himself long after his prime has passed him by, playing in some over-40 men's basketball league in a gym somewhere in America.

The quickness and agility he possessed at the age of 17 while a 7-foot senior center at Dominguez High in Compton, Calif., during the 2000-2001 season, and later as an NBA star, have long abandoned him. But that's OK because one thing remains: his desire to be the best.

"All I want to do is be the best player, period," says Chandler. "I'm not going to be satisfied until I retire,
Dominguez High (Calif.) center Tyson Chandler did not play in the final two games of the Slam Dunk to the Beach.
because I'll constantly be trying to get better. Even then, I'll probably start over in some old men's league and still try to be the best."

For Chandler, looking decades into the future seems easier than looking to the immediate future, although he sounds surprisingly comfortable talking about either. The ease with which he answers questions regarding what he'll be doing next year is impressive considering he gets asked dozens of times per day if he plans to go to college or directly to the NBA following his senior year at Dominguez.

Chandler says he'll wait until spring to make that decision. He does, however, note that his list of colleges, which started with UCLA, Arizona, Michigan, Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, USC and Syracuse, has been narrowed to UCLA, Michigan and late entrant Memphis.

"I'm going to wait and see until I'm ready to make a mature decision," says Chandler. "I'll probably decide in April. Right now, I'm focusing on the upcoming season. We don't want to stop anything short of a national championship."

That appears to be attainable based on Dominguez's returning talent. Chandler led the Dons to a 35-2 record last season and the mythical national championship in at least two major polls, including the Top 25. He guided his squad to 28 straight wins to end the season, including the Division II state title, while averaging 20.1 points, 11.3 rebounds, 4.7 blocks and 3.2 assists per game.

Senioritis doesn't sound like a problem this year for Chandler, who says his desire for being the best is stronger than ever.

"I think the desire to win comes from within," says Chandler. "I don't think anyone can give it to you. I like to be the best at whatever I do. When my brothers are skateboarding, I try to do better tricks than they do."

Many feel like Chandler's hoop game is already close to perfection -- at least at the high school level. He's extraordinarily quick for his size and is a master of defense, as evidenced by his nearly five blocks per game average. The number shots he affects with his mere presence is incalculable. He can stroke the jumper, hit free throws and sometimes connect on 3-pointers.

But questions of strength remain. His thin frame (7-foot, 216 pounds) will undoubtedly fill out with time and a little weight work. But whether he should bulk up in college first or spend the next two years with the big boys in sort of an NBA apprenticeship is open to debate.

Chandler says he's interested in hearing what players like Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Tracy McGrady -- all of whom went directly from high school to the NBA -- have to say, but he won't base his decision on their comments.

"Each situation is different," he says. "I'm sure they had their own reasons for doing what they did."

NBA Director of Scouting Marty Blake says he wouldn't mind seeing Chandler work on his game in college for a few years, but Blake wouldn't blame Chandler one bit if he entered the NBA draft. Blake won't speculate as to how high Chandler might be drafted, but he did say the teen is a major talent who should only get better with time.

"This is the year of the high school center," says Blake. "And I think Chandler's a real prospect. Will somebody draft him? I think so. He's a talent. I certainly would like to see him go to school and develop and get stronger, but if he wants to skip college, that's his privilege.

"The media says all the time that these players should stay in school. What kind of crap is that? How many opportunities does someone get to make two million dollars?"

Dominguez boys' basketball coach Russell Otis says a lot of people have assumed that Chandler has already made up his mind to go directly to the NBA when that is not the case. Like Chandler, Otis sees pros and cons to both options. But either way, he has little doubt about how good Chandler can become.

"He's the best shot blocker I've ever seen," says Otis. "He's got great agility and phenomenal quickness for his size. He's a sponge. He absorbs everything on the court and academically. Emotionally, he's still a 17-year-old, and how many 17-year-olds are ready for life in the NBA? But he's mature for his age, and he's done a wonderful job dealing with all the pressure."

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