Chandler finds new home with Braves

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 5, 2004

LORMAN &045; John Chandler was a man without a home.

Or, more accurately, a man looking for one.

The Moss Point product signed on as a freshman with Jackson State, left after his freshman year for Murray State College in Oklahoma and didn’t play much last season.

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The Avinger, Texas, resident wanted to play Division I ball and kept in contact with a former teammate from Jackson State, current Alcorn assistant Perry Fletcher.

Neither dropped their correspondence with each other, and Chandler found his way to Lorman and a spot with Alcorn for the 2003-04 season.

Now he gets a chance to make his first trip back to JSU when the Braves play there Saturday.

&uot;They just followed me after I left Jackson State and got me here,&uot;&160;said Chandler, who is averaging 6.5 points per game in seven starts and appearances in each game. &uot;I came here basically because of Coach (Samuel) West and Coach Fletcher. I just wanted to play for him.&uot;

Chandler, who has come off the bench behind DeAndre Jones at the No. 2 guard position, got a chance for a new start at Alcorn after leaving JSU his first year.

Chandler was alleged to have been involved in an attack on a female student, but the charges were determined to be unfounded and he was cleared of any wrongdoing.

He finished the semester there before heading to Oklahoma for a season. He had an offer to play at Nicholls&160;State but opted for Alcorn.

&uot;I talked to him on the phone and told him Coach West is a class guy and someone he could trust,&uot; Fletcher said. &uot;That’s all he wanted &045; someone he could trust. He wanted an opportunity to play Division I ball. A lot of people take things for granted, but he appreciates the opportunity. He’s really a blue-collar kind of guy.&uot;

The 6-4 Chandler has taken a similar approach to the season. He’s started at times earlier and got the nod in a Monday road loss at Texas-Pan American with Jones out with a knee injury.

But he started seven straight games at the start of the SWAC season at guard and tossed in a season-high 19 points at Prairie View on Jan. 5.

&uot;He really wants to please us and does everything he can to please us,&uot; West said.&160;&uot;He’s been solid. He’s very aggressive &045; sometimes overly aggressive. When we hired Coach Fletcher, that was a plus. He and Coach Fletcher are old fraternity brothers. He’s a very humble young man. He really is.&uot;

After Chandler played 25 minutes in Monday’s loss, the most in seven games, he’s got an idea of what’s going right and wrong for the Braves heading into that Saturday game at JSU.

The Braves are sitting 4-5 in SWAC and begin the second round of conference play. Right now it’s just a matter of putting it all together.

The Braves were tied at 34 at halftime Monday before falling 72-54.

&uot;We’ve got the first half down pat,&uot; Chandler said. &uot;Earlier in the year we had the second half down pat. Right now we’re not finishing games. We just didn’t finish (Monday). It was a team losing effort. Too many unforced turnovers. We’ve got to win every game from here on out, and that’s how we’re looking at it.&uot;

Injuries, however, will play a factor in how well the Braves accomplish that feat. Jones has that knee, and senior Dion Callans hurt a shoulder at practice Wednesday.

Others include Ray Dotson (knee), Almaad Jackson (ankle) and James Kendrick (ankle).

&uot;This time of year it’s the grind time of the year,&uot;&160;West said. &uot;It’s a time when you have to push through every obstacle that’s placed before you. I think we’re just not staying focused throughout the entire game. We know what we have to do right now. It’s a matter of just doing it &045; staying focused and doing it.&uot;

In a rivalry game like Saturday at JSU, that may

not be a problem for some. Chandler admitted it’s just another game, but it’s a big one for him and others from Mississippi &045; like Trey Johnson, who declined JSU’s offer and went with Alcorn.

But for Chandler, it’s a chance to redeem himself a bit after hitting just two of nine shots against JSU in the Braves’ 78-71 loss at home Jan. 10.

&uot;This game means a lot to him going back there,&uot;&160;Fletcher said. &uot;(Former) Coach (Andy) Stoglin will be there, and we still have a good relationship with Coach Stoglin. I think the first outing against Jackson State he was kind of over-anxious. He was over-anxious to prove himself. I think this time he’ll be calmer and will do a good job for us.&uot;