Beginning on October 3rd and running up until November 14th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2014-2015 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.
After playing off the ball for the majority of his first two seasons at Stanford, Chasson Randle made the shift over into the point guard role. In one aspect the circumstances surrounding the Cardinal in 2013-14 made the move a necessity, with Aaron Bright being sidelined by a shoulder injury that would ultimately cost him the entire year (he’s now a grad transfer at Saint Mary’s). Add in the fact that Stanford didn’t have much experience at the position, and moving Randle to the point made sense.
The other aspect to be considered in all of this: while recruiting Randle during his time playing for the Rock Island High (Illinois) and Illinois Wolves AAU programs, Dawkins and his staff saw skills they believed would ultimately lead to Randle moving to the point during his time in college.
“We thought he’d be able to eventually transition to the point guard spot,” Dawkins told NBCSports.com last week. “Of course size-wise he was there, and he showed some instincts with his passing that led us to believe that he could make that transition. And I think that for his future, he knew that [position] was where his future lay if he wanted to continue to play the sport after college.”
And the thought of his basketball future after college influenced Randle as he worked to develop into a better player.
“Absolutely,” Randle told NBCSports.com when asked if it was a move he had in mind before even setting foot on campus. “I knew that for my development and career that I had to develop my skills as a point guard. Coach Dawkins and his staff have done a great job with me and have been very patient throughout the years in teaching me what it takes to play the position, how to manage a game and become that leader on the floor.”
The decision proved to be a profitable one for both the individual and the team, with Randle raising his scoring average by five points per game and the Cardinal reaching the Sweet 16 after going six years without an NCAA tournament appearance. Randle averaged 18.8 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game for Stanford, earning first team All-Pac-12 honors. Randle was one of two Stanford guards to take big steps forward in 2013-14 with the Pac-12’s Most Improved Player Anthony Brown being the other, and their return is a major reason why the Cardinal are expected to contend in the Pac-12 this season.
When asked where he felt he made the greatest improvements as the season progressed, Randle cited leadership and his ability to manage the game.
“Just knowing time and score, and how to manage a game,” Randle said. “Slowing guys down when we need to slow down, and speeding things up where we need to go faster. Tempo was something I became better at controlling last year. This year, in terms of my growth, it’s going to be about picking my spots and knowing when to hunt my shot and when to find the open guy and getting others involved.”
Interestingly enough Randle’s assist numbers dropped from his sophomore to junior season, an occurrence that can be attributed to two factors. One was that in addition to being the team’s primary ball-handler, Randle was asked to be the primary scoring option for the Cardinal. The other factor: he wasn’t the only player on the roster capable of making plays within the Stanford offense, with three of Stanford’s five starters averaging between 2.1 and 3.1 assists per game.
The assist leader was forward Dwight Powell, and the departure of both he and Josh Huestis has undeniably impacted the next stage of Randle’s development as a point guard.
Randle’s responsibilities as a team leader take on even greater importance as a result of those two departures, with he, Brown and fellow senior Stefan Nastic being asked to shepherd a group of underclassmen that’s long on talent but short on college experience. With that being the case, Randle’s made a greater effort during the preseason to be a vocal leader and help the young guys out, as they’re (especially freshman point guard Robert Cartwright) the ones who will be entrusted with leading the program when Randle and his fellow seniors move on in the spring.
“I have to be more of a vocal leader than ever,” Randle noted. “Dwight and Josh weren’t ‘super vocal’ but together they were just what we needed from a vocal standpoint. This year that’s where I need to come in and be that rock, someone the guys can depend on. And when things need to be said or done, I’ll need to be the guy who steps up.”
Offensively Stanford finished the season in the middle of the Pac-12 in both field goal (sixth) and three-point percentage (fifth), and they were just tenth in the conference in assists per game (11.5). Those numbers will need to improve if the Cardinal are to make consecutive NCAA tournament appearances for the first time since 2007 and 2008. Their crop of freshmen, which includes Cartwright, forwards Reid Travis and Michael Humphrey and shooting guard Dorian Pickens, will give the Cardinal added depth as will Rosco Allen’s return to the court after sitting out all of last season.
But those players will only go as far as the seniors, most notably Brown and Randle, can lead them. And in the case of Randle, his preparations to eventually play the point guard position have also provided valuable lessons learned in leadership. Having taken a step forward in that area a season ago, Randle has continued to build on that in hopes of putting together a successful senior campaign.
“The greatest strides he’s made have been as a leader,” Dawkins said. “He’s capable of scoring, but he had to improve as a leader and learn to be a little more vocal. I saw signs of that last year, and I continue to see signs that he’s taken that to another level this year. He’s communicating even better with his teammates, and that’s something that’s very important at the position.
“You have to make sure your teammates are organized, and that something I see Chasson doing a lot more.”