From the Look of Things, Chandler Enjoys Surprises

TIMES STAFF WRITER

If Tyson Chandler had any innocence left to lose, it vanished with the drop of a cap.

When the Clippers made him the second pick in the NBA draft Wednesday, it appeared Chandler's leap from Compton Dominguez High to the pros would be nothing more than a hop on the freeway to Staples Center. His family was overjoyed and Chandler flashed a megawatt smile as he donned a Clipper cap and shook hands with Commissioner David Stern.

About an hour later, Chandler was talking to reporters from Los Angeles about how wonderful it would be to play at home alongside his pal Darius Miles. He was interrupted and told his rights had been traded to the Chicago Bulls, who sent Elton Brand to the Clippers.

Chandler lost the Clipper cap for one that read Bulls and returned to the TV cameras.

There was the smile again, albeit a bit pained.

"I was very shocked," he said. "I sat back and said, 'Are you sure?'

Chandler made a crack about his mother crying in a corner, then said all the right things about the Bulls. He is only 18, but survival skills came early for the 7-foot Chandler, who for years has been groomed for the NBA by club coaches, shoe companies and a cadre of advisors.

"When the Clippers chose me, I pretty much thought I'd be there," he said. "But I wanted to go to the Bulls before the draft started.

"When I heard the Clippers picked me at two, I was excited. But now that I'm with the Bulls, I'm even more excited."

The Bulls ended up with two of the first four players chosen, and both are coming straight from high school. The fourth pick was a Chicago hometown product, Eddy Curry, a 6-10 1/2, 301-pound center from Thornwood High of South Holland, Ill.

"It's really ironic, but it's a great opportunity for two high school players to learn and grow together," Chandler said.

Although Chandler's ability is unquestioned, scouts wondered about his work ethic. He appeared unmotivated at times in high school.

Russell Otis, his coach at Dominguez for three years, received several calls before the draft.

"Scouts asked those questions a lot," Otis said. "My response is that any time you get him on the court, all he thinks about is basketball. He knows this is his job now. He will want to be the best player on the team.

"Other kids got spoiled by the things they received, but Tyson is a totally different kid. Anyone who doubts him, he wants to prove wrong. He can handle just about anything."

Little could top the whirlwind of the last two days. He brought his mother, stepfather, grandparents and former club coach Pat Barrett with him to New York for the draft at Madison Square Garden, where they sat together.

Chandler wore his smile the entire time. Next stop will be another big city. No doubt, Chandler will greet it with a grin as well.

"It's a wonderful opportunity," he said. "This is the team I expected to go to from the beginning. I think it's going to be great."

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Tyson Chandler at a Glance

* Born: April 6, 1983, Fresno.

* Personal: Chandler lived on his grandparents' Hanford, Calif., farm until 1992 when he and his mother, Vernie Threadgill, moved to San Bernardino. Vernie and Chandler's stepfather, William Brown, live in Buena Park with sons 13, 8 and 2. Chandler's father, Frank, is married with two children and lives in Valencia.

AT COMPTON DOMINGUEZ HS

* Senior: Averaged 26.0 points, 14.8 rebounds and eight blocked shots in leading the Dons to their third state championship and fourth Southern Section title in Chandler's four years. He was named state player of the year despite sitting out the last two games because of an ankle injury.

* Junior: The Dons were ranked No. 1 nationally, won the state title and Chandler was state player of the year, averaging 19.6 points, 11.2 rebounds and 4.3 blocked shots.

* Sophomore: Dominguez won its first state title with Chandler, who averaged 14 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.7 blocks.

* Freshman: Already 6-10, Chandler was the starting center and averaged 11.4 points and 7.6 rebounds on a Southern Section championship team whose stars were Tayshaun Prince and Jason Thomas.

POST-HIGH SCHOOL

* NBA: After being the second pick overall by the Clippers, his rights were traded, with Brian Skinner, to the Chicago Bulls for Elton Brand.

* Outlook: At 7-0, 228 pounds, Chandler runs and jumps very well. He is an accomplished shot-blocker and good shooter from the perimeter. He needs to improve his offensive play around the basket.

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