Jun 20, 2018 | by B.J. Rains, Idaho Press

NEW YORK CITY — It was this time last year, on the day of the NBA Draft, when Chandler Hutchison sent out a short, simple message on his Twitter account: 365 days.

Motivated by a decision to return to school for his senior season, the Boise State star hoped to be in the position a year later of those that he watched get drafted and take the stage in Brooklyn in the 2017 NBA Draft.

“I was looking at it and trying to envision what it would be like for my family to be there,” Hutchison said Wednesday. “And 364 days later, here we are. That’s crazy, huh?”

Hutchison was one of 19 college players invited to attend the 2018 NBA Draft, signaling his status as a likely first round pick. He’ll be first player in Boise State history to go in the first round if he does.

And it’s a moment that most probably wouldn’t have seen coming a few years ago, especially after a sophomore season in which he averaged just 6.8 points and 4.1 rebounds while playing only 19.9 minutes per game.

Things were bad enough at the time that his mother questioned whether staying at Boise State was best for him.

“I’m going to be honest, sophomore year, I was ready (for him) to transfer,” Tanya Hutchison said Wednesday. “But I think because of Chandler and his commitment and loyalty to the people that see potential in him, and he’s patient and a lot kinder than I am.

“I’m really proud of him because it shows that hard work plus talent equals success and if you just continue with your passion, in time it can turn out to be something like this.”

The arrival of assistant coach Phil Beckner and a dedication to making himself an NBA-level player led to huge improvements as a junior.

He nearly tripled his scoring output, averaging 17.4 points and 7.8 rebounds to earn first-team All-Mountain West honors.

His impressive junior season, along with his 6-foot-7 frame and athletic body, led to interest from NBA teams. He declared for the draft and worked out for the Celtics and Clippers before deciding to come back for his senior season.

The goal after he decided to return to Boise State? To become a first round pick.

And after upping his production to 20.0 points per game as a senior and adding in an impressive 7.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.5 blocks, he appears to have done just that. Most mock drafts have Hutchison going No. 22 to the Chicago Bulls, while all of the major ones including ESPN, CBS Sports, The Athletic and FOX Sports at least have him going in the first round.

“My family and the people I have around me kept me grounded and always believed in me even when maybe I didn’t see it myself and didn’t fully believe in myself,” Hutchison said. “My family was right there, the coaches, they were encouraging me to continue to work.

“It takes an extreme amount of commitment and I decided to commit myself to wanting to be an NBA player and after I made that decision it was just doing whatever it took and putting in the time and continuing to get better. … It’s been a hunger and an obsession to want to perfect all parts of my game.”

Hutchison has continued to do that in the weeks leading up to the draft. He pulled out of the NBA Scouting Combine and hasn’t done any pre-draft workouts with teams, which gave him 10 solid weeks of training in Chicago to continue to develop his outside shot and the other areas of his game.

While most prospects were traveling around the country to meet and work out for teams, Hutchison was in a Chicago gym working tirelessly to be ready to make an immediate impact with his new team.

“I think I’m going to surprise a lot of people with the improvements I’ve made and my ability to shoot,” Hutchison said. “I know I’ve put myself in position to hopefully have a very memorable night, and a big thing was the chance to have these two months to refine my game and be the best possible player I could. I’ve gotten a lot done.”

As for why he pulled out of the combine and didn’t work out for any teams, Hutchison wouldn’t confirm reports that the Bulls or another team promised they would draft him in the first round. He didn’t exactly deny them either and said he’s heard he could go anywhere from 15 to 30 in tonight’s first round.

“There’s no guarantee with anything,” Hutchison said. “I could end up anywhere. There’s confidence knowing the area I’m going to end up in and that was enough for me to make that decision…but there’s no telling where, and that’s the excitement and also the nervousness you have leading up to the draft.”

Hutchison spent Wednesday doing several media interviews and took part in an NBA Cares community service event in which the draft prospects helped at a skills clinic for area kids and also wrote cards and made care packages to send to troops overseas.

His schedule Thursday is might lighter, which only means more long hours to wait until 5 p.m. MT start of the draft.

“Yeah, I mean I’ve only dreamed about it every day the last week,” Hutchison said. “I’ve woken up with my heart racing a few times because of it. I’m just really excited to let it happen because then I get to start and the real fun begins. I’m just excited and blessed to be in this position.”

Hutchison’s parents, three brothers, sister, grandma and a number of aunts, uncles and cousins will be at the Barclays Center for the draft. The group, which also includes some friends, will total nearly 25 in all for a night they won’t soon forget.

“It’s kind of surreal,” said Charles Hutchison, Chandler’s dad. “He’s grown into a young man and sometimes I have to pinch myself and say that’s my son, but I love him to death and I’m proud of him and the fact that he’s remained humble. He hasn’t gotten a big head, he still cares and has the basic traits that make him a good person.”

There’s plenty of history surrounding Hutchison’s likely first round selection. Not only will he be the first Boise State basketball player ever to go in the first round, but he’ll be just the second in the history of the program to get selected in the current two-round format. Six other Broncos have been drafted, but five of them went in rounds 3 to 7 when the draft had seven rounds prior to 1989.

It would also mark the second time in Mountain West history that a school had first round picks in football and basketball in the same year. Utah’s Andrew Bogut and Alex Smith both went No. 1 overall in 2005 while the Utes were in the Mountain West. Only a handful of schools including Alabama, USC, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Maryland have a chance to achieve the feat this year.

It’s an achievement and a night never experienced by Boise State. On the biggest stage in basketball in the biggest city in the U.S. the Broncos will stand aside some of the biggest powers in college hoops and make history.

“It’s a big moment and an exciting time and I’m just humbled to be part of it,” said Boise State coach Leon Rice, who will sit with Hutchison in the Green Room. “It’s a big milestone for our program. There’s also a big sense of pride. There’s a humbling part where you’re like, wow this is pretty neat that our program was able to do this and help Chandler accomplish his dreams and goals and all the things we set out for him and planned for him.

“You can’t really underestimate how big it is for the program. I’m just so happy for Chandler.”

ESPN will air live coverage of the draft beginning at 5 p.m. MT.

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