BYU signee Collin Chandler is one of Utah’s highest-rated basketball recruits ever. With that has come pressure, rumors and big expectations

Chandler, a former Farmington High basketball star, has learned just how difficult being a highly recruited athlete can be

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Farmington's Collin Chandler as Lehi defeats Farmington High School in the 5A boys basketball state championship game, in Taylorsville on Saturday, March 6, 2021.

Collin Chandler has become adept at handling pressure.

The former Farmington High basketball star felt it at every road gym during his senior year as the Phoenix tried to win a 6A state title. The BYU signee felt it when deciding where to play in college. He feels it now as a player who some consider to be the future of the BYU men’s basketball program.

But a message written on Chandler’s Adidas shoes for the entirety of his senior year has kept things in perspective: “Pressure is an opportunity.” He got the idea of writing the uplifting reminder from Cougars guard Trey Stewart, who writes similar messages on his shoes about mental health.

“Not everyone has it,” Chandler said of pressure. “It’s a good thing that you’re held to a standard and that everyone’s watching you. So it’s just an opportunity to make the most of it.”

But the pressure of being the highest-ever rated basketball recruit in Utah has its drawbacks. With it comes scrutiny and speculation, rumors perceived as facts. And in the last several months, when Chandler was in the throes of deciding to sign with the Cougars, he and those closest to him have learned firsthand exactly how difficult it can be sometimes for a star recruit.

A committed Cougar shoots down the rumors

As several of his future teammates and the man who recruited him were leaving BYU for other programs, Chandler sat in the BYUTV studios, fielding questions about his mission call, attending the NCAA Final Four and the school joining the Big 12.

He was then asked about the recent news surrounding the team. He said he did because BYU is his “new home.” He then gave a vote of confidence to coach Mark Pope.

“Knowing Mark Pope, we’re going to come back stronger,” Chandler said during his April 22 appearance. “That’s who we put our faith in. That’s the guy. He’s going to bring guys in. We’re going to be better.”

Chandler certainly sounds committed to the Cougars despite the recent upheaval. But it wasn’t easy for him to get to that place.

Jennifer Chandler saw a change in her son as his college decision got down to the wire. For about seven months, he talked to three or four coaches every day. He went on college visits. Coaches showed up at tournaments to watch him play.

Through it all, he worried about giving schools the wrong impression if he wasn’t interested. He even made pro-con lists with his parents for each school.

“He just was a different kid,” Jennifer Chandler said. “He was pretty quiet, somber. I could see that he was just really trying to figure things out.”

When Chandler finally committed to BYU, it was like a weight lifted off his chest, his mother said.

But Chandler’s decision came as a surprise to many who thought it was a foregone conclusion he would sign with the University of Utah, where his father, Jason, went to school. But in Chandler’s inner circle, that wasn’t the case at all.

“I can tell you straight up: There were people close to him and around him — myself included — that would prefer to see him go elsewhere,” close family friend Jeramy Petersen said. “He was less of a lock to Utah than people thought.”

From there, rumors started circulating that BYU promised him name, image and likeness deals. When asked directly if those rumors were false, Chandler was unequivocal.

“Well, it’s illegal,“ Chandler said. “So, yes.”

Friends and family members of Chandler also vehemently denied that there was any wrongdoing on the part of BYU.

“I know there was a lot of speculation on NIL deals — none of that happened,” Jason Chandler said. “There was no NIL deal at Utah, at BYU. Nothing of that was spoken of in terms of recruiting.”

Chandler expressed a sense of annoyance when recalling how he felt hearing those rumors. And on some level, he knew Utah fans and others on the outside would challenge his character.

“I kind of expected it just because I know how big of a rivalry it is and how much people care about sports,” Chandler said. “It’s kind of sad that it has to come to people making up stories and stuff. But I just try to not think about it too much.”

Others around Chandler, though, said the rumors were “unfortunate” and even “hurtful.”

“We can give him everything he needs up until college and through college and then he can make his own money after that,” Jennifer Chandler said. “He could be any other player out there and never have an NIL [deal] and be just fine. So that was kind of hard.”

Turning the noise into a compliment

Once the decision to sign with BYU was behind him, Chandler still got grief during his senior season at Farmington. In practically every road gym, chants of “overrated” rained down from opposing fans if he would miss even just one shot.

But instead of the chant getting him down, it would motivate him even more to prove the fans wrong. To prove that he belonged on the ESPN Top 100 list. To prove he deserved his eventual Gatorade Player of the Year Award, or that it was the wrong move that he wasn’t selected as a McDonald’s All-American.

“I think when fans would do that, you would definitely see a different gear come out a little bit because it would piss him off a little bit,” Farmington boys’ basketball coach Kasey Walkenhurst said.

Chandler, however, took those chants as a compliment of sorts.

“Not everybody’s getting that chant,” Chandler said. “You have to be someone, you have to be a good player in order for people to give you those chants or to be trying to get in your head so the other team can win.”

Those who have watched Chandler closely over the years believe he has what it takes to thrive at the next level, too. Brandon Jenkins, national recruiting analyst for 247 Sports, projects him to be a starter at the Power Five level.

“Chandler thrives in transition and enjoys attacking the rim when driving lanes are available,” Jenkins wrote recently. “He is a great shooter off the catch or dribble and knocks down the [3]-point shot with consistency. ... His upside is clear, immense, and due to his work ethic, it should be counted on to transform into immediate productivity once he begins his college career.”

Chandler is not the type of person to bask in the limelight. Those close to him say he’s quiet, humble and generally introverted. When he’s not playing basketball, he’s an avid pickleball player and golfer, and enjoys strategy games like “Settlers of Catan.”

A member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he’ll go on his mission to Sierra Leone in West Africa. He’s been told to get used to the spicy food there, he said, adding that the spiciest item he can tolerate is a Hot and Spicy McChicken sandwich from McDonald’s.

“That one gets me sweating a little bit,” he said.

When Chandler returns, BYU will be playing the Big 12 Conference, which he considers the best basketball conference in the country and a major selling point in signing with the Cougars. And he’s embracing the idea that he could be the next big thing for the men’s basketball program.

“You want to have that standard that you can try to live up to and you want to have people saying that because you have to be good if they’re going to say that,” Chandler said. “It’s a blessing to have that, but I’m excited for it and hopefully I’ll live up to that.”

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