Chasson Randle grew up in Rock Island, Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from Iowa. It would have been far easier if he were an Iowa, Iowa State or Drake fan, all in cities within easy driving distance of his hometown.
Randle, instead, accompanied his father to Chicago, nearly three hours away, to watch Michael Jordan and the Bulls.
Randle has never been about taking shortcuts, though it was exciting whenever the Bulls came to Quad Cities to play an exhibition game.
Stanford's senior guard is about striving to be the best. Jordan was a pretty good role model.
"Everybody wanted to be like Mike," Randle said.
These days there are younger players who'd love to be like Randle, the undisputed leader of the Cardinal men's basketball team, which opens its season Friday night with a 9 p.m. game against Wofford as part of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.
Randle, who left Rock Island High as the school's all-time scoring leader after helping the Rocks win their first state title, challenged himself by choosing Stanford over staying close to home.
It has worked out fairly well for everybody.
"It's been fun watching him develop and grow in all areas," Cardinal coach Johnny Dawkins said. "He's earned respect with his work ethic, his words and his character. I've watched him mature and become more outgoing. I am proud of the man he has become."
Randle is one of three returning starters, with fifth-year seniors Anthony Brown and Stefan Nastic, who helped Stanford (23-13 last year) reach the Sweet Sixteen in its first NCAA tournament appearance in six years. The goal is to trump last year's run.
"We lost Dwight (Powell) and Josh (Huestis) so there will be more of an emphasis, collectively, on everybody to contribute a little more," Randle said. "Our preparation has to be detail-oriented. We need to focus on the little things."
Huestis and Powell were Stanford's top two rebounders and two of its top four scorers. Randle led the Cardinal last year with an 18.8 scoring average and Brown was third at 12.3. Brown also averaged 5.0 rebounds a contest.
"He's versatile," Randle said of Brown. "I like him as a 2, so he can be right next to me. He's someone I can lean on. He complements my game and stretches out the floor."
Randle remains the point guard, though he's not your typical point guard. Then again, Dawkins knows something about that, having played the same role for Duke.
"He's brought my game to another level as far as preparing for the game," Randle said. "He grew up a scorer, too, and then made the same transition. He helped me with that."
For Dawkins, it was simple.
"He led us to the Sweet Sixteen," he said. "He's grown into that position and he's a guy we can depend upon. As good as he was last year, he's doing an even better job this season."
Randle scored 26 points, including a 16-of-19 effort from the foul line, in Stanford's exhibition victory over Cal Poly Pomona. Brown, Nastic and Randle were joined in the starting lineup by junior forward Rosco Allen and freshman forward Reid Travis.
The 6-foot-9 Allen, a native of Budapest, Hungary, missed all but seven minutes of one game last year due to a stress reaction. He played in 33 games, including seven starts, as a freshman.
"It's great to have him back," Dawkins said. "The year he sat out, I think he learned from that experience. He'll be a key contributor for us. He's playing well and with a lot of confidence."
The 6-8 Travis, who has a brother playing at Harvard, came to Stanford as one of the top 50 recruits. He was the Minnesota co-Player of the Year, participated in the McDonald's All-American Game and was named a second team All-American.
Travis broke his foot and hyperextended his knee over the summer.
"He got a late start because of the injury but he'll help," said Dawkins, who also mentioned 6-9 freshman forward Michael Humphrey as a top contributor. "Travis had work to do to get his timing back. He's someone who could help step into those roles left by Josh and Dwight."
Overall, Dawkins brought in a highly regard freshmen class that also includes guard Robert Cartwright, who was the first of the group to commit to Stanford. He's the likely heir apparent at point guard, although sophomore Marcus Allen is also in the mix.
Junior guard Christian Sanders also returns after missing last year with a hip injury.
Seniors Elliott Bullock, Wade Morgan and Jack Ryan add depth, along with junior Grant Verhoeven, sophomores Malcolm Allen and Schuyler Rimmer and freshman Dorian Pickens.
Stanford has another ambitious schedule, which includes a visit from defending national champion Connecticut in January. The Cardinal also has games at BYU and Texas.
Stanford returns to Brooklyn for the final two rounds of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic and will UNLV before playing either Temple or Duke.
2014-15 STANFORD MEN'S BASKETBALL
Friday vs. Wofford 9 p.m. (Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament)
Nov. 16 vs. South Dakota 3 p.m. (Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament)
Nov. 21 UNLV 4 p.m.(Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament)
Nov. 22 Duke or Temple (Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament)
Nov. 25 vs. Delaware 8 p.m.
Nov. 30 at DePaul 11:30 a.m.
Dec. 13 vs. Denver 3 p.m.
Dec. 17 vs. Loyola-Marymount 6 p.m.
Dec. 20 at BYU 8 p.m.
Dec. 23 at Texas 4 p.m.
Dec. 29 vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff 8 p.m.
Jan. 2 vs. Washington State noon
Jan. 4 vs. Washington 7 p.m.
Jan. 8 at UCLA 6 p.m.
Jan. 11 at USC 7 p.m.
Jan. 14 at California 8 p.m.
Jan. 17 vs. Connecticut 6 p.m.
Jan. 22 vs. Arizona 6 p.m.
Jan. 25 vs. Arizona St. 9 a.m.
Jan. 28 at Washington 8 p.m.
Jan. 31 at Washington St. 5 p.m.
Feb. 5 vs. UCLA 6 p.m.
Feb. 8 vs. USC 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 12 at Utah 6 p.m.
Feb. 15 at Colorado 1 p.m.
Feb. 21 vs. California 3:30 p.m.
Feb. 26 vs. Oregon St. 8 p.m.
March 1 vs. Oregon 4 p.m.
March 5 at Arizona St. 8 p.m.
March 7 at Arizona 1 p.m.
March 11-14 at Pac-12 Tournament, Las Vegas