By Joe Henricksen
If there is one player in the state of Illinois in the Class of 2011 who the City/Suburban Hoops Report expects his recruiting to truly pick up on the national level over the next 45 days it's Rock Island's Chasson Randle. The 6-2 guard recently made the United States U16 National Team in Colorado Springs, a team that will travel to the FIBAAmericas U16 Championships in Argentina.
The national team experience will only help Randle, both in gaining confidence and gaining a little more notoriety. This opportunity will be entirely different for Randle compared to when he goes to the high-profile Reebok Camp in Philadelphia in July, where it will be much more about individuals "getting theirs". After that it will be back to playing with the loaded Illinois Wolves in AAU play the remainder of July.
When Randle headed to Colorado Springs for the USA Basketball tryouts a little over a week ago, he was not considered one of the "bigger names" selected to try out for the team. But when it comes to USA Basketball, Randle is an ideal teammate, a perfect piece for a national team that tries to find the right guys that are coachable, are able to fit in, produce and actually win something. That's the type of kid and player that he is, with off-the-charts character and who brings zero baggage.
Plus, he's very versatile in that he can run the point, play off the ball, make those around him better and get out and defend with his long arms and instincts. Those are the attributes he brings to the table, which makes him a safer recruit than some of the more ballyhooed players in Illinois' Class of 2011. While he doesn't bring ridiculous athleticism, he's an above-average athlete with the ability to glide past defenders in finding his way to the basket. As he matures, gains some weight and fills out physically so he can take a little more pounding, he will become that more dangerous. When the updated Hoops Report's Class of 2011 rankings come out later this month, Randle will have made a small move from No. 6 to No. 4.
He is certainly a hot commodity among high-major programs in the midwest. And right now the four that appear to be out in front are (in no particular order) Illinois, Iowa State, Purdue and Wisconsin. What makes his recruitment so intriguing and important, particularly with several of the current leaders involved being Big Ten schools, is that the loser in the Randle sweepstakes will very likely have to face him a minimum of eight times.
Illinois was thought to have had a slight lead with Randle at one point, though now it appears to really be a dead heat with no quick end in sight. He has been on campus a number of times, the system Illinois runs fits Randle, it's the home state university, his family is fond of Illini basketball and, with the talent coming in, has positioned itself as a future power.
Iowa State is not too far from the Quad Cities and would offer immediate major minutes for Randle as a freshman. Plus, classy Iowa State assistant coach Daniyal Robinson is a Rock Island graduate. But will Iowa State's lack of an NCAA Tournament pedigree hurt in the long run?
Wisconsin is also close as Madison is less than 160 miles from Rock Island. The coaching staff has made a favorable impression. Wisconsin won the Big Ten title in 2007-2008 and has reached the Final Four in the last decade. But does the swing offense the Badgers run suit Randle best?
Purdue, after a 9-19 season in 2005-2006, has been recharged by coach Matt Painter and his staff, winning 52 games the last two years and finishing second in the Big Ten each year. The Boilermakers will be a preseason top 10 team this coming season and, like Illinois, fits Randle perfectly in terms of how they play.
The list, however, could change over the next month when some of the bigger players nationally get involved, particularly a couple of schools that would be difficult to say no to. His options will clearly become greater between now and the end of July. Florida State, which doesn't fall into one of the "bigger players" I am speaking of, is an example of his name getting out as the Seminoles recently extended an offer to Randle.
Randle is a unique recruit in many ways as he's slowly taking it all in and is in no hurry to end the process as more and more schools get involved. He's a sharp kid with a solid upbringing and family. He is not a player who will get caught up in things that, unfortunately, matter to a lot of other kids and top prospects -- how much TV time does a school get, what type of shoes does the program wear, etc.
A stellar student, Randle wants a strong academic school and the opportunity to win -- and win big. He wants to win a national championship at the next level. First, though, he will take his shot at winning a gold medal in Argentina.