Stanford's Chasson Randle
living up to all
the high expectations
Chasson Randle arrived at Stanford last fall with all the expectations of a highly regarded basketball recruit. He earned a spot in the starting lineup and has been sharing point-guard duties with Aaron Bright all season.
Until his virtuoso performance in last Saturday's 103-101 four-overtime win over Oregon State, though, no one knew how he would perform under pressure. Randle answered with a rather emphatic effort that left little doubt he will be a key component of the Stanford men's basketball team.
Through the first 16 games, Randle has displayed the athleticism that made him one of the nation's top combo guard prospects while at Rock Island High (Ill.) and one of the most talked about Cardinal recruits in recent years.
Randle adjusted to the level of play this year while being able to lean on Bright and Jarrett Mann, who also has point-guard experience. Those two were long gone when it came to decide Saturday's historic game in Corvallis.
There was no one else there to support the freshman guard after Bright and Mann fouled out. It was suddenly his team and Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins had no other choice but to rely on him.
"It was a good opportunity to take a step back and see what is going on with the players," Dawkins said. "We believe in him and he was a good contributor."
Randle's growth as a college basketball player was on display against the Beavers and he never hesitated. Dawkins has to be feeling pretty good about the rest of the season and beyond after watching such a performance.
"When I first saw Chasson, I thought he was a winner," said Dawkins, a point guard at Duke and in the NBA. "He comes from a winning culture. His team was terrific, and he led them.
"I also saw a young man who was very versatile in his play, whether it's being able to knock down a shot from outside, taking the ball to the basket or creating shots for himself or his teammates," Dawkins added. "He had that innate ability to make that play."
Randle scored a season-high 24 points for Stanford (3-1, 13-3 entering play against Utah on Thursday night), including a layup with 37 seconds left in the fourth overtime that provided the winning points.
"I was just trying to help my team win the game," Randle said. "Guys found me at the right spot, got me open looks and they went down."
Stanford, which played its longest game in program history, led 100-95 after Randle scored the first five points of the fourth overtime. The Cardinal never gave up the lead again.
"He is out there looking to make his teammates better," Dawkins said. "But at the same time, he has the ability to attack and create on his own as well. I think he adds another dimension to our team, and we're excited to have an opportunity to get him going."
The Cardinal is part of a pack of teams residing at or near the top of the Pac-12 Conference following two weeks of play. Colorado (3-0, 11-4) was the lone unbeaten heading into its game at California on Thursday. The Buffaloes visit Stanford at 1 p.m. Saturday with first place likely at stake.
The Cardinal played Utah for the first time in nearly 15 years Thursday night and there are some observers who think Randle has the same kind of mettle Brevin Knight showed during his four years at Stanford.
Knight played his final collegiate game the last time Utah and Stanford met — in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament on March 20, 1997 at the San Jose Arena. At the time, it was the most successful Stanford team since the NCAA championship team of 1942.
Mike Montgomery, who recruited Knight to Stanford from New Jersey, built his team around the guard and Knight led the Cardinal out of the shadows of one of its worst seasons in history and into the national spotlight.
Once again Stanford looks to rebound from a series of sub-par seasons to rekindle its NCAA tournament prospects and Randle could be the final piece of the puzzle.
Randle led his high school team to its first state title and graduated as the school's all-time leading scorer and top rebounder.
Randle also had a chance to formulate a relationship with his teammates during a six-game trip to Spain in September. He led the Cardinal in scoring with an 11-point average.
"He definitely gives us depth at the point-guard position," Dawkins said. "He's a young man that answers a few of our questions with regards to how we need to compete in the Pac-12. Aaron Bright, who played point some for us last season, is probably our most improved player returning."
Josh Owens, who leads Stanford with his 13.0 scoring average and 6.1 rebounding average, scored 24 points for the Cardinal the last time it played Colorado, nearly four years ago.
Owens recorded his first double-double of the season in the victory over Oregon State and reached double figures in scoring for the 13th time in 16 games. Bright has reached double figures in 12 games and Randle has done it 10 times.
Sophomore forward Dwight Powell also had his best game of the year, finishing with 10 points and 11 rebounds. He scored several critical baskets to help extend the game for the Cardinal.
The question is how quickly Stanford can put the game behind them and focus on this week's contests.
"That was a taxing game for us and we had to adjust our schedule a little bit to make sure the guys got their legs back under them," Dawkins said. "It was kind of a historic game so you have to acknowledge that and make sure you learn from it. At home, kids what to talk about the game and stay in the moment and we have to move on."