HOPE — Tori Chandler has played at the highest levels of junior basketball in Australia.

After getting a taste of high school basketball in Indiana, she’s come to the conclusion that there’s no comparison.

The 16-year-old exchange student at Hauser has taken an immediate liking not only to basketball, but to American sports in general. Landing in a hotbed of high school hoops might have been a not-so-small factor.

Chandler has experienced that passion both as a player and as a fan. Since Hauser does not have a football team, she went with some of her friends to a Columbus North football game and a big rivalry game between North Decatur and South Decatur.

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Now, Chandler is playing basketball as a junior for the Jets. She leads the team with 16.9 points a game. She has scored in double figures in all eight games, including a 28-point outburst against defending Class A state champion Jac-Cen-Del.

More importantly, a Hauser team that lost its top four players from last season, is off to a 6-2 start, the best in coach Brad Hamilton’s four years at the school, and a No. 9 ranking in Class A.

“It was obviously a gift for me that I didn’t plan on,” Hamilton said. “Bringing her in has been a perfect fit, and it’s really filled some gaps effectively. She has a great attitude, she’s unselfish and she’s had a great impact.”

Chandler, who is staying with host parents Alan and Christy Greenhut, said high school sports aren’t that popular in Australia. She said district and club sports receive a little more support.

Even playing for her home state of Victoria, Chandler said, draws fewer fans than the 300 to 400 she’ll play before on a typical night at Hauser or on the road.

“So many people come to the games, whether it’s home or away,” Chandler said. “The support is really fascinating. I think when the crowd gets into it, it’s really fun to play in front of so many people. It makes the game so much more exhilarating.”

So far this season, Chandler also has been to all of the Jets’ boys basketball games. She was surprised at how a lot of the students wear T-shirts representing their school.

Chandler, who is in the United States until June, ran cross-country for Hauser this fall. She is thinking about competing in track and field, tennis or softball in the spring and can’t wait to see what kind of support those sports attract.

“I really love the sporting atmosphere,” Chandler said. “It’s so much different. The whole school gets into the sport. Everyone knows how you did and how the team did, and everyone gets behind the team. The supporters in the crowd get into it (in Australia), just not as much as everyone around here.”

At a glance

Tori Chandler didn’t know how to change a tire when she came to the United States.

Chandler and teammates Hailey Lange and Nichole Paetzel were riding home with Lange’s parents from Hauser’s boys basketball season opener at Switzerland County when they noticed athletics director Dave Irvine pulled off to the side of the road. He had a flat tire.

So for the first time in her life, Chandler, with the help of Hailey Lange and Paetzel, changed Irvine’s flat tire.

Now, Chandler is anxiously awaiting another first.

“I’ve never touched snow or seen snow,” she said. “Right now, it’s 40 degrees, and I think it’s freezing. Everyone tells me, ‘Just wait.'”

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.