“I think Tommy being a point guard himself at that major college level, playing for Duke on a national championship team, I think Tommy sees himself in Siyani,” said Rene Pulley, head of the AAU program Chambers played in. “I think Tommy sees something in Siyani that he probably had to overcome himself being a smaller guard.
“Tommy told me, ‘This is my No. 1 recruit.’ A lot of coaches didn’t want to believe when Tommy saw Siyani that that was his No. 1 recruit, but I believed him.
“He saw something in Siyani that a lot of other coaches didn’t. A lot of coaches were intrigued by Siyani but they just weren’t sure.”
Change of plans
The plan was not for Chambers to play nearly 38 minutes a night his first year (which he is doing). When Amaker got Chambers to commit, he already had Brandyn Curry, a senior cocaptain, at the point, which would have given Chambers time to learn as an understudy.
But when Curry and forward Kyle Casey withdrew from school — reportedly after their involvement in a cheating scandal — everything changed.
“Honestly, there was no plan here,” Amaker said. “We just said this is the hand we’re dealt and we’re going to continue on. What I mentioned to our kids, who knows how this is going to shake out, but I mentioned to them from Day 1, we may not have what we had, but we have enough.”
Chambers was thrust into the starting lineup, and he has been there for all 24 games this season, seeing teams like Connecticut, Massachusetts, Saint Joseph’s, Memphis, and California for the first time, with the expectation that he play above his years.
“I was a little nervous,” said Chambers. “But I just have to credit my teammates and coaching staff for saying, ‘We’re going to work with you. There’s no pressure, just go out there and do what you do. We’ll back you up on whatever you do.’ ”
Amaker didn’t think twice about giving Chambers the keys.
“I had no worry whatsoever handing him the ball, no worries he would lead our team, be in charge of our team, even as a freshman,” Amaker said. “He had to learn the things that I wanted and what we wanted for our program, but that didn’t take very long.
“Now, he’s been a guy that we’ve had to say, ‘Hey, you’re our quarterback,’ and he’s capable. He didn’t blink an eye.”
Early on, Chambers would find himself going over to the sideline while opponents were at the free throw line just to check in with Amaker. They’d ask each other what they were seeing on the floor.
Now, they barely have to do that anymore.
“It’s gotten to a point now where sometimes even when I go over to the sidelines, I already know what he’s about to say and we talk about it,” said Chambers. “He basically tells me something on the sideline and then he wants me to reiterate to everybody else on the court what he just told me.”
They talk before and after practice. Sometimes Chambers bounces basketball ideas off his coach. Sometimes Amaker bounces life questions off his freshman point guard.
“I consider him like a best friend now,” said Chambers.
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.