With a 21-point effort on Senior Night last week, Central High School senior Dominique Chandler eclipsed the 1,000-point mark for his Yellowjacket career, helped his team end the regular season with a 20-5 record and continued to prove his status as an elite high school shooter in Kentucky.
But ask Central Head Coach Doug Bibby and heâ€™ll quickly tell you about Chandlerâ€™s transcendent journey to the defensive side of the ball â€“ a side the 6-foot sharpshooter wasnâ€™t previously familiar with.
â€œ(Chandler) was all about scoring up until this year,â€ said Bibby. â€œHe was a 3-point specialist and his game was predicated on him knocking down threes. And if he wasnâ€™t knocking down threes, you may not find him anywhere else in the stat sheet. He was at the bottom of the totem pole in terms of his defense.â€
During last yearâ€™s Seventh Region Tournament semifinals against St. Xavier â€“ a game that Central ultimately lost by 11 points â€“ that mindset abruptly changed for Chandler during a key moment in the contest.
â€œI could have taken a charge and it could have been a big momentum change when (St. X) had a run going, but I didnâ€™t take it,â€ said Chandler. â€œI thought about it during the whole offseason.â€
Behind some furious jump-roping sessions, film watching and challenging himself to guard the top player from opposing teams during summer play with his Louisville Storm AAU team, Chandler flipped a switch.
â€œHeâ€™s made a 180 and is probably our main defensive stopper this year, so Iâ€™ve definitely been proud of him,â€ said Bibby of Chandler. â€œEverybody talks about his shooting â€“ and he is one of the best shooters in the state â€“ but he has taken pride defensively and in picking up the toughest guy on the other team.â€
â€œThis year, heâ€™s taken it upon himself to play better defense, to help crash the boards â€“ little things like getting through screens. Thatâ€™s a right step toward doing the intangibles,â€ Bibby continued. â€œHeâ€™s really matured. And Iâ€™m challenging him to get (the rest of his teammates) to that level.â€
Chandler, who is still Centralâ€™s leading scorer this season averaging 18 points per game, has finally responded to his coachâ€™s relentless request to â€œdo the intangiblesâ€ â€“ an area of the game Bibby refers to as â€œScalabrineâ€ for former Boston Celtic Brian Scalabrine, who was also coached in college at USC by Henry Bibby, Dougâ€™s uncle.
â€œContainment, leveling guys off, running through screens, 50-50 balls, blocking out â€“ thatâ€™s â€˜Scalabrine,â€™ â€ says Bibby, who is in his eighth year at Central.
â€œWhen Scalabrine made it to the (NBA), a lot of people were like, â€˜How did Brian Scalabrine make it to the league?â€™ It was the intangibles,â€ he continued.
With this unique approach, the Yellowjackets finished the regular season, winning seven of their final eight games. The lone loss in that stretch was to defending state champion Trinity.
Central is favored to win the 25th District this week, but has not advanced past the regional semifinals since earning a trip to the state Sweet 16 in 2009.
St. X Takes State Title
Behind Orville Williams Outstanding Wrestler Award-winner Hunter French and a total of six grapplers competing in individual championship matches, St. Xavier scored 203.5 points to capture the KHSAA state wrestling title in Lexington.
It was the third team wrestling championship for the Tiger program and first since 2001. St. X beat defending champion Campbell County and another title favorite, Union County, to bring the trophy back to Louisville.
Besides French, who won in the 160-pound weight class, there were four other Louisville area wrestlers who won individual championships: Fern Creekâ€™s Jorge Vega (106 lbs.), St. Xavierâ€™s Justin Lampe (145 lbs.), Southernâ€™s Thomas Noe (195 lbs.) and Trinityâ€™s Bobby Bryant (285 lbs.).
Trinity (120 points) finished sixth in the final team standings, while Oldham County (99.5 points) finished tenth. St. Xavier head coach Jim Kraeszig was named Kentucky Coach of the Year by the Kentucky Wrestling Coaches Association. It is the second time he has earned the honor.