When it comes to Julia Chandler, the Dayton Flyers can only hope life imitates art.
By her own admission, Chandler is “obsessed” with DC Comics and the DC Universe.
It began, she said, when she was just a kid growing up in Toronto: “My brother Richard is six years older and he was like the coolest person to me. He was into the Justice League and Batman and he was always watching comics on TV.”
Now 21, Chandler has her own extensive comic book collection.
The screen saver on her phone depicts the antihero temptress Harley Quinn sidling up to The Joker.
She’s a bit of an artist and when she draws it’s usually comic book characters.
While she likes Batman, she said no one quite strikes a chord with her like Wonder Woman:
“I relate most to her. She’s someone who demands the same respect as anyone else. When she walks into a room full of men, she expects them to respect her a person, not just a woman.”
Chandler gets noticed when she walks in, too.
She’s 6-feet 2.
And if you check her basketball resume, you see along with touring the world with various Canadian National teams — playing games in Russia, the Czech Republic, France, Spain, the United States and Mexico, where her U-16 team finished second in the FIBA World Championships — she also played in 59 games at Syracuse, including in the 2016 NCAA Championship game versus UConn.
Forced to sit out last season after transferring to UD, she was a fixture on the Flyers bench and always was dressed in nice street clothes — “dolled up” she called it — as is the rule for players not in uniform. There were times she wore five inch heels which, she figured, made her 6-7 or 6-8.
She said she’d rather be in sweats or workout clothes, which is what she’ll be wearing Friday through Sunday when the Flyers women’s program hosts two days of high school team camps and a day of elite instruction for select players.
Chandler will be one of the eight current or former players helping UD coach Shauna Green and her staff run the sessions. Following more camps over the next two months and summer classes, Chandler finally will begin her redshirt junior season.
That’s when the Flyers hope the Wonder Woman transition takes place.
While the uniform will be a different cut — though still red and blue — and she won’t have Wonder Woman’s bracelets that deflect bullets and that golden Lasso of Truth, Chandler still hopes to have some potent on-court weaponry:
There’s her ability to shoot a three-pointer, hit a midrange jumper and, at times, even play inside with her back to the basket.
“She has an ability to score inside and outside,” Green said. “She’ll stretch defenses and most of all she brings us some experience playing at a high level. She understands what we need to be doing to achieve our ultimate goal – making the Final Four.”
‘This could be my future’
For Chandler, taking part in the camps brings back a memory of the time her own hoop dream materialized.
Her parents were from England and her dad spent much of his life in Africa, especially South Africa.
Julia was a middle child between two brothers. Richard is now in the Army and Matthew, who is 6-7, is headed to St. John’s University to play soccer.
She played soccer as well and said she dreamed of one day playing in the Women’s Premier League.
Her first attempts at basketball ended with her cut from the team or riding the bench. But she kept growing and was an even 6 feet at age 13.
“Our basketball team went to a camp at some small school in New York,” she remembered. “And that just opened my eyes to the possibilities. I didn’t know about college basketball until then.”
Soon after, as an eighth grader, she got her first recruiting letter – from the College of Charleston. A year later she went to two more camps and that prompted a recruiting letter from Michigan State.
“I knew from that moment on, this could be my future,” she said.
After being ranked the No. 91 player in the entire 2015 class by espnW HoopGurlz, the recruiting floodgates opened. But because her mom, Gillian, wanted her somewhat close, Julia limited her choices to mostly the East Coast and finally chose Syracuse.
As a freshman she played in 32 games, the most of any freshman on the team — and averaged 2.3 points.
She said she was used as a three-point shooter, but believed she could do far more.
As a sophomore, she hit 4 of 5 three-point attempts to help the Orange beat Boston College. She had 12 points against DePaul, too.
Then her season took a downturn and she lost confidence.
“I wasn’t playing as much at the of the end of the season and I wasn’t happy,” she said. “But I was loyal and I decided to stick it out there.”
That’s when she had a heart-to-heart talk with Syracuse assistant coach Adeniyi Amadou, who had been an assistant at UD and showed himself to be a gem of a guy when here.
“We talked openly and there were tears on both sides,” Chandler said. “He said, ‘Your college experience shouldn’t be about sticking it out. It should be that you want to be somewhere. You should have fun.’
“He said, ‘You are a great player, I just think it might not be here. You need to go where you can really play and have an opportunity to one day maybe go pro.’ I respect him so much for being honest. He really cared about me.”
Chandler again drew plenty of recruiting interest, but was lobbied by fellow Canadian, Saicha Grant-Allen, who had been her teammate on a club team and had played for the national team.
Grant-Allen had starred at UD, was drafted in 2017 by the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks and played in Spain last season.
“Saicha really helped us get her,” Green said. “She could speak on the program and how we do things here.”
‘We are family’
The mantra of Green’s program is “We are family.”
But it’s more than a cozy saying or a Sister Sledge song with the Flyers. It’s a day-to-day way of living that some players – especially those transferring in from programs with a more business-like approach – don’t quite get at first, Green said.
That was the case with Chandler.
“I wasn’t used to coming by the basketball offices if I wasn’t told to,” she said. “I wasn’t used to hanging out with the coaches away from the court.
“When I didn’t show up at our offices after my first couple months here, they were like, ‘We never see you. What’s up?’
“I was like, ‘What do you mean? You see me every day at practice.’
“They said, ‘No, why don’t you show up at the offices?’ I was shocked. I had no idea that’s what everybody did. It took a while to understand the closeness. We all live in the same apartments here and that wasn’t the case at Syracuse either. And we go to coach’s house maybe once a month to eat.
“It really is family here and now I’m used to it.”
Green said she’s seen a change in Chandler: “She has grown so much the past six months. She’s really come out of her shell and is showing us who she is.”
Which brings us back to Wonder Woman.
“When she walks into a room, she’s like: ‘I am who I am. My opinions are valid,’” Chandler said, then giggled.
“And she’s a bad ass…and I feel I am, too.”
With Julia Chandler, UD can only hope life does imitate art.
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