NORTH CANTON  Freshmen, even those who come in with plenty of high school accomplishments to their name, often take a back seat in their first year of college sports.

The adjustment period was significantly shorter for Walsh freshman Chandler Vaudrin (Lake), who dove right in with the Cavaliers and has started 12 games for a team with a 13-5 record and hopes for an NCAA tournament berth. The 6-foot-7 freshman guard averages 6.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists per contests and averages the third most minutes on the team.

“It’s pretty cool to be able to play on a team with such good senior leadership and the great culture we have here. Coach Jeff Young gave me an opportunity to come in and play some big minutes as a freshman,” Vaudrin said.

One commonality for freshman that is ringing true for Vaudrin is the increase speed and athleticism of the college game. In high school, a good fake or quick crossover might send an opponent tumbling to the floor and clear the way for an easy basket. In college, the same fake might only create a fraction of an opening as defenders are faster and more athletic, enabling the to recover much more quickly.

Another big shift from college to high school has been learning to play more without the basketball. After playing varsity for four years at Lake and becoming the dominant ball handler especially in his last two seasons with the Blue Streaks, Vaudrin has found himself playing mostly off the ball at Walsh with senior guard Zac Carter the established presence in the Cavaliers’  back court.

That has meant setting screens, being more active on the glass and looking for scoring chances wherever they present themselves and so far, Vaudrin has been proficient in that capacity. 

Part of his success stems from the advice and input from his older brother, Chaese, who is a senior guard at Geneva (Pa.) College. The two played together at Lake when Chaese was a senior guard on the team that lost at the buzzer to Hoover in the Alliance Division I district final and basketball remains a tie that connects the two whether they’re on campus or back home for the summer.

“When he’s back during the summer, we work out every day and he gives me tips on things that might work in games and what won’t work at the college level because he’s been through it,” Vaudrin said of his older brother. “He watches my games and we’ll text after games and break things down.”

Another basketball connection that has a direct influence is the one Vaudrin maintains with Lake coach Tom McBride, with whom he talks or texts every week. Sometimes they talk about what’s going on with Vaudrin and his new team, but other times the topic of conversation is the current edition of the Blue Streaks, which is just one game off the lead in the Federal League race.

Because he is able to attend some Lake games, Vaudrin keeps tabs on his former teammates and McBride will pick his brain with regards to what he sees from Federal League rivals with whom he’s still familiar. Being connected to the program that propelled him to the college level is something Vaudrin enjoys even as he tries to take his game to the next step in its evolution.

There is still the occasional down game - 2-of-5 shooting and three turnovers in a recent loss to Ohio Dominican that snapped a five-game winning streak - but it’s all part of the process.

Vaudrin also has plenty of company as a freshman guard, with two local rivals, Conner Wess (Coventry) and Mark Mokros (Canton Central Catholic) on the roster. Vaudrin and Mokros played basketball together at First Friends Church as elementary school students and all three players knew each other or had played against one another in high school prior to coming to Walsh.

Off the court, Vaudrin is in his first year pursuing a degree in finance.

“I’d like to do the money side of things and do investments and manage money for athletes and entertainers,” Vaudrin said of what he hopes to do with his degree after graduation.

Less than one year into his college career, there’s still a long way to go before graduation both on the court and in the classroom. Thanks to a fast start to his college basketball experience, Vaudrin has a good foundation from which to build. 

Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
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