If Derrick Marks was Boise State basketball’s closer last season, then Chandler Hutchison was its starter.
Seldom-used the first half of his freshman campaign, Hutchison helped the Broncos to a 15-3 mark once he was inserted into the lineup at the opening tip.
“A roller coaster, going from not really playing at all to being in the starting lineup,” Hutchison said. “Coming out of high school, you’re used to playing all the time, but in college, you don’t always know where you fit in, it takes some time usually.”
In the Broncos’ first 16 games last season, Hutchison logged 88 minutes. Then, on Jan. 10 against UNLV, he made his starting debut and played 17 minutes as the Broncos ended a four-game losing streak.
It was a way to get the athletic, highly-touted 6-foot-7 guard some meaningful experience, and it meant he had to face the opponent’s best players instead of simply playing late in games or against lower-level teams.
“You’re seeing it in football with (Brett) Rypien — sometimes guys aren’t immediately ready when the season starts, and you don’t want to throw them right into the fire,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “... You don’t want to bury them. I know sky’s the limit for Chandler, and we had to get him out there, build the confidence.”
His role as a defensive tone-setter was new for Hutchison, who was a prolific scorer at Mission Viejo (Calif.) High. He emerged as one of the state’s top talents with 19.5 points per game as a senior.
“We had so many offensive options, I was able to focus on being a defensive stopper, use my length,” he said. “I took at is a challenge, I mean, that first start I had to guard Rashad Vaughn (the No. 17 overall pick in June’s NBA Draft).”
Hutchison had 64 points, scoring in the last 11 games, and 40 rebounds in his 18 starts, when he averaged 15 minutes per game. He will see those minutes rise as a sophomore as he continues to scratch his potential.
“I think grasping the defense can be a challenge, so having that experience last year, I’m able to put a little more emphasis on my offense, I want to be more of a presence there,” Hutchison said. “Shooting, for sure, I need to get better. I’m working from the inside out.”
Quickly, it was evident Hutchison’s athleticism was going to be a boon for the Broncos, with his ability to slash to the basket like a veteran. He said a key in offseason conditioning was building strength and balance to control his body as he makes those moves, improving his finish.
Last season, Hutchison shot 35.6 perecnt from the field, 28.6 percent on 3-pointers, both lowest among any Bronco who logged more than 100 minutes. Like another exciting freshman three seasons prior, Hutchison had a mostly one-dimensional offensive game with plenty of ability to become well-rounded.
“The two are kind of opposite that way, where Anthony (Drmic) had nothing but the 3, but his game really grew in his sophomore year, learning to score in other ways,” Rice said. “I think it’s the same for Chandler this year. He’s going to be a better shooter this year, I know that.”
With Marks’ graduation and continued learning around the aggressive-minded Drmic, Hutchison is a strong candidate for a breakout season for the Broncos, and he feels primed for it.
“Going through the struggles in the beginning, feeling like I wasn’t part of the team — which was ridiculous because everyone has a role — I started to focus on what I was doing right, not what wasn’t,” Hutchison said. “... That experience, the successes, you build off it, and that’s what I plan on doing.”