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Chandler Pitts takes northern trek to Rochester College

NORTHERN EXPOSURE: Maconaquah graduate Chandler Pitts (C) will continue running the floor to the north next year after signing on to join the Rochester College men’s basketball program for the 2018-19 school year. With Pitts at the signing was (L to R) Rochester College assistant coach Andrew Topie, father Aaron, mother Kimberly, Maconaquah boys’ basketball head coach Tim Maiben and Rochester assistant coach Evan Green.

BY TRENT SCOTT - tscott@perutribune.com

It took a while for Chandler Pitts to finally nail down a landing spot for the 2018-19 school year.

When the dust finally settled, Pitts opted to venture north, signing on to join the Rochester College men’s basketball program next year.

The success the Warrior basketball team has had was a big factor in Pitts’ decision making.

“I liked the opportunity to compete for championships every year, whether it was conference or national titles,’ Pitts said. “I really liked the idea of being competitive and winning something all four years.

“Rochester is also not that far away from home. Those were two major factors when deciding where to go.”

Located in Rochester Hills, Michigan, the college was an ideal setting to learn in according to Pitts.

“Rochester is pretty small and everything is right there,” Pitts noted. “It’s a beautiful place that’s right by a lake.

“They have a brand-new arena, having been playing their games at local high schools and is named after the current coach’s dad, Garth Pleasant.”

While he hadn’t decided on a direction upon entering college, Pitts said he had an idea of what he wanted to study.

“I’m going in undecided but am looking at their sports management program,” Pitts said. “Recently, they had a graduate (Jon Horst) from the program that became the youngest General Manager in NBA history for the Milwaukee Bucks.

“The team often volunteers with the local YMCA and other groups, which is something I look forward to doing. I’m sure there are other opportunities to do things up there once I get there.”

The Warriors, an NAIA school which joined the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference starting in the 2017-18 school year, have been a strong program with a six-year run of 20-plus wins snapped during the past season.

Despite the streak being broken, Rochester advanced to the WHAC Tournament final and went on to win the United States Collegiate Athletics Association men’s basketball title over Oakwood University.

Pitts said the program’s consistent success and stability were major plus marks in wanting to join the team.

“The program has been run by the same two people since it began in the 1960s,” Pitts said. “The dad (Garth Pleasant) coached the team until 2011 and now his son Klint Pleasant is the coach.

“Last season, Rochester won the USCAA National Championship, which is a small Christian national championship. They were also a game away from winning their conference tournament title.”

Maconaquah boys’ basketball head coach Tim Maiben said Pitts’ development over his high school career made him an ideal person to bring into a collegiate program.

“When Chandler came in as a freshman, I saw a scrappy, undersized kid that showed a lot of potential and heart,” Maiben said. “He was a very competitive individual on the court and got plenty of varsity experience as a freshman, which is not something a lot of guys get.

“He was clearly the guy we wanted at point guard then and in the future. We didn’t have a lot returning that first season and having talked about him in middle school and seeing him play in the summer, we knew he was someone we wanted playing a lot of varsity games.

“Anytime you get a player who is a four-year starter, that helps a coach and a team grow,” Maiben added. “In high school basketball, point guard is the most important spot on the court and he did a good job of being a floor general for us.”

Losing Pitts was always going to be a blow for the Braves but Maiben said his impact on others, both currently playing and still to come, was equally important as his time on the court.

“We had conversations with Chandler that, even though he’s done playing here, his impact will live on,” Maiben said. “It’s easy for the high school kids to miss out on the fact that, five or six years ago, they were imitating kids that are in the same position they just were.

“There were a lot of middle school basketball players that, during practice, were shooting the last shot he made or the pass he was able to make because they felt it was the best they had seen. A lot of those kids sat behind our bench at games and it was great to see the enthusiasm in those kids to want to be out there and be the next player on the court.

“Not all of them are going to be the next Chandler but we’re still excited to see them want to be great players and that’s the impact he’s had on them,” Maiben added. “He’s helped establish a new culture for the team based on the tone of working hard, working as a team and because of what he’s done, we can continue to improve on that as a program.”

Pitts said there wasn’t much downtime during the summer as Rochester would be putting in time to get things ready ahead of the 2018-19 season.

“Rochester has a few weeks of camp during the summer I can go to,” Pitts pointed out. “They also have a few scrimmages against local colleges.

“They’re all opportunities to get acclimated with college play and get used to my new teammates.”

The demands of college work were one thing Pitts was keeping in mind next year while also adjusting to the physical stature of the collegiate game.

“Getting used to the speed and physicality is going to be important,” Pitts said. “I’ve seen it in the open gyms but it shouldn’t take too long for me to pick it up.

“Time-management is something that, in talking to people, is a big adjustment. The projects assigned are a lot bigger than in high school so I can’t put those things off.”

With games starting in mid-October and practices to begin in earnest shortly, Pitts’ would need to be settling in to life in Michigan shortly, though he added he was going to miss the family he had formed at Maconaquah.

“I’ll miss a lot of the friends I have here as well as the coaching staff, which became like family to me,” Pitts said. “Everyone has been very supportive, so I’ll miss those people that have impacted my life, but I’m also super-excited to be heading to Rochester College this fall.”