Kentucky guard a 'sneaky candidate' to win SEC Freshman of the Year

Kentucky guard Collin Chandler arrives in college following a two-year mission trip.
University of Kentucky’s new men’s basketball coach Mark Pope points to the championship banners as
University of Kentucky’s new men’s basketball coach Mark Pope points to the championship banners as / Clare Grant/Courier Journal / USA TODAY

When Mark Pope took over the Kentucky program one month ago, his entire roster was empty -- including incoming players in the 2024 class as every signee put the breaks on their commitments to the Wildcats.

After solidifying parts of the team through the transfer portal, a new name popped up for Kentucky fans -- one that they had never heard before.

That was Collin Chandler. Chandler was part of the 2022 recruiting class and was a BYU signee. But, he took a two-year mission trip, so he would be entering his freshman season in 2024-25. Shortly after Pope took the Kentucy job, Chandler flipped his commitment and joined the UK 2024 class.

In just a few weeks, he's gone from an afterthought in the eyes of Kentucky fans to potentially a 'sneaky candidate' for SEC Freshman of the Year.

"Collin Chandler is a sneaky candidate to look out for," 247Sports national analyst Brandon Jenkins wrote. "A member of the Class of 2022, Chandler is coming off a two-year mission trip. If the Wildcats do not add another two-guard in the portal, then expect to see Chandler works his way into a starting line-up. At 6-foot-4, he can drill shots, get downhill and get very vertical on his attack."

Chandler was a top-35 player in the class of 2022 and the Utah Gatorade Player of the Year his senior season. He averaged 21.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game as a senior.

Chandler scored 1,587 career points and made 135 3-pointers in his career at Farmington High (UT).

“Collin Chandler is one of the most talented high school players in the country,” Pope said. “He has a silky-smooth jumper, a slippery ability to get to the rim, an explosive burst and the most impressive of all, he has incredible processing speed as he reads space and time and makes plays on pure instinct."

There's no doubt Chandler is talented and he's the perfect guard to play in Mark Pope's system. But, how will he adjust after two years away from the game?

Pope has worked with players coming back from mission trips before, so this won't be anything new. Chandler has already arrived back home and in the gym.

It'll be a long process to get back, but if he's able to quickly, there is absolutely no question that he could be a name to keep an eye out for this season.