Chandler Hutchison needed a wardrobe change.
The junior guard has worn a T-shirt beneath his jersey at practices and games from the moment he stepped on Boise State’s campus as a lanky freshman in 2014. Hutchison came from Mission Viejo High in Southern California with high expectations as one of the biggest recruits in program history.
The problem was that, at 6-foot-6 and just 175 pounds, his body wasn’t ready to carry that burden.
So he went to work in the weight room, pushing himself to 185 pounds in hopes of playing a bigger role. That role never came, though, as he started only seven games as a sophomore.
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Hutchison turned the corner in the offseason behind the coaxing of head coach Leon Rice and his assistants. And the junior has not looked back.
In addition to growing two inches since he arrived on campus, Hutchison is up to 196 pounds. After being able to bench press little more than the bar as a freshman, Hutchison is repping 200 pounds. Already a gifted leaper, his vertical has improved by three inches. His body fat percentage is under 4 percent. His squats, deadlifts and hang cleans improved anywhere between 20 and 50 pounds in a few months.
“He made gains in every single area. That is the result of a maturity and a commitment to the process,” strength coach Adam Hermann said. “That’s where he has improved the most.”
Hutchison and his body are finally ready for the advanced role the program had envisioned. The T-shirt is a relic of the past.
“A lot of the coaches here tell me, normally the biggest jump comes with players in their junior season. For me, it was just carrying myself different. … The difference I think is just walking into the gym just having that moxie and having that look of (being) ready to go.”
The new and improved Chandler Hutchison isn’t just visible. It is a mental and physical evolution that has taken time and effort by those around him. And that’s because, for all of his talents, Hutchison is not an aggressive personality.
But keep pushing, and you will be rewarded.
“We’re going to push him. We’re going to make him better,” coach Leon Rice said. “My staff is doing a great job with him, and Chandler is doing a terrific job.”
Hutchison dominated the opener against Northwest on Saturday, with 23 points and 11 rebounds in 25 minutes. He led fastbreaks like Magic Johnson and grabbed rebounds like Charles Barkley. He was 9-of-10 from the field and made both 3-point attempts.
This isn’t the first time the cliché lightbulb has flipped on for Hutchison. It also happened under the watchful eye of his high school coach, Troy Roelen.
“(Hutchison) isn’t someone who is just going to (be assertive), for fear of hurting someone’s feelings or ruining the team chemistry. He doesn’t want to ruin things egotistically,” said Roelen, his coach at Mission Viejo. “He just needs to be pushed in the right direction.”
Hutchison can glide to the basket, but also owns the vision of a top-shelf point guard. With a wingspan of nearly 7-feet, he is a mismatch anywhere on the court. He’s the perfect teammate who was friends with everyone on the team, according to Roelen.
But talent comes with a price.
“He was unselfish to a fault, and I don’t think he realized how good he was,” Roelen said. “(I had) to convince him that, sometimes, when you’re taking a 50-50 shot, it’s better than other guys taking a 75-25 shot.”
Hutchison’s first moment of clarity occurred during his junior year, when during the CIF playoffs, he dunked over a player from Orange Lutheran High. That was the moment he realized he could take over a game.
He parlayed that momentum into a stellar senior campaign. A newly-aggressive Hutchison saw his scoring average jump from 13.8 points per game to 19.5. He led his team to the CIF finals and a berth in the state playoffs, culminating in a lob dunk over 7-footer Thomas Welsh from Loyola High (now at UCLA). He became the No. 80 player in the ESPN Top 100 and four-star recruit.
That was Chandler Hutchison.
“When the lightbulb goes on and he goes, ‘Damn, I can be good,’ (he’s special). He needs to be encouraged to do it,” Roelen said. “It took him a while to come up in the game and start suggesting things. By that senior year, he was awesome. He was the best player in the gym.”
Now on a young team with no superstars, Hutchison has again taken the reins. With help from the Boise State coaching staff, he is taking initiative and leading by example.
“He’s really taken a step mentally,” redshirt senior guard James Reid said. “And then that makes his voice of leadership, which he always had, now it’s stronger because guys see the work he puts in.”
Though he’s still adjusting to his new body and role, the 2016 edition of Chandler Hutchison does everything with a purpose.
“I just realized that I wanted to be the guy who we can count on, game in and game out. … It just came with adjusting to our new coaches and getting a feel for them,” Hutchison said. “They’re making it easy to want to put the work into being that player I want to be.”
His high school coach believes the sky is the limit.
“He absolutely has it all in him,” Roelen said. “Outside of basketball, he’s one of my favorite people I’ve ever coached.”
- When: Thursday-Friday, Sunday
- Where: TD Arena (5,100), Charleston, S.C.
- Thursday (top half of bracket): Western Michigan (1-1) vs. No. 3 Villanova (2-0), 9:30 a.m. (ESPN2); Wake Forest (2-0) vs. UTEP (1-0), 11:30 a.m. (ESPN3)
- Thursday (bottom half of bracket): Mississippi State (1-0) vs. Central Florida (1-0), 3 p.m. (ESPN2); Boise State (1-0) vs. Charleston (2-0), 5 p.m. (ESPN3 and 670 AM)
- Friday: Boise State plays Mississippi State or Central Florida at 5 p.m. (with a loss) or 7:30 p.m. (win)
- Sunday: Four games starting at 11:30 a.m.; championship game at 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2)