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For some people, winning just seems to come easily. Does it really? No, it comes through hard work and, most importantly, through an attitude.

Exactly how does one pick up that attitude? That appears to be a question that really cannot be answered.

Rock Island boys’ basketball coach Thom Sigel has seen what a winner is and he wishes he knew how or why Chasson Randle has become a true winner.

“I guess it is hard to answer why he is who he is,” Sigel said. “If I had that answer, more people would be like him.

“If we knew what makes him tick or how he gets the most out of himself and those around him, all of our players would be great. That’s what makes him great.”

Not including youth, junior high and summer AAU championships, Randle has won eight championships in the last 10 years. It all started in 2009 as part of Team USA when it won the U16 FIBA Americas title.

He won the FIBA U17 World Championship the next year and then led the Rock Island Rocks in the 2011 IHSA Class 3A state title, the school’s first-ever boys’ basketball state championship.

Two NIT championships at Stanford followed. Then, he added three championships over two seasons in Europe.

Last Tuesday, Randle finally had his dream come true. After three short stints in the NBA, he earned his first full contract worth $975,824 per year for the Washington Wizards. For those who wonder, that would equate to a two-week paycheck of $37,532.

Where did it start?

Randle believes his basketball mindset and winning attitude started all the way back at the Rock Island-Milan Basketball Association (RIMBA) as a grade-schooler.

“I learned the winning attitude at a young age, all the way back to RIMBA teams,” he said. “You learned how to play the game the right way, starting with the fundamentals. Then, I learned a lot on my two Team USA appearances in U16 and U17. I learned about being a good teammate.

“Winning is just an attitude I have. Winning is my only goal. The stat sheet at the end of the night is only good if the team wins the game. The way I look at it, when the team wins everyone wins and gets to where they want to go.”

Sigel believes it started long before RIMBA. He gives a lot of the credit to Randle’s parents, Willie and Gwen Randle. A solid family home and a belief that doing things the right way were huge.

“I would say it starts with his parents and how they brought him up,” Sigel said. “Chasson has always had a great work ethic, humility and his faith. Then, he has an ornate drive to take those lessons he learned at home and his abilities to make the most of every situation.

“I have never told this story publicly but when he was in second grade he was in our Runnin’ Rocks camp on a team with my son, Trey, who was just thrilled his team won the championship. I told my wife, Alicia, that team won because of a kid named Chasson. Something about him told me this kid was special.”

The next step

As a freshman, Randle spent a good part of the first half of his first high-school season on the sophomore team. Midway through the season Sigel gave Randle a shot to play in a junior varsity game against Moline. That evening was the last time the school’s all-time boys’ leader in scoring and rebounding would play anything but a varsity game.

“He showed his competitive spirit,” Sigel said, “You saw then he was motivated. He knew that playing Moline meant something more. We called him in the next day and asked him if he wanted to start that Friday at Moline in his first varsity game. He proved that night he was more than ready for the varsity.”

Randle chose Stanford to continue his education and basketball career. He became the school’s all-time scoring leader en route to winning NIT championships as a freshman and senior. He also helped the Cardinal reach the NCAA Sweet 16 in 2014, including a big game in an upset of Kansas.

His dream was within reach but always seemed to slip away. The 2016 NBA Draft came and went without Randle’s name being called. He didn’t give up. Instead, he worked his way into the New York Knicks training camp and was a standout in the NBA Summer League before suffering an eye injury late in summer play.

He had two short NBA stints — one with the Knicks and one with the Philadelphia 76ers — while dominating in the NBA D-League.

He spent 2016-17 in the Czech Republic, leading his team to the Czech League championships. The following season, he went to European kingpin Real Madrid and, as a reserve, he was part of two more championships.

The right guy

This past summer, Randle took a phone call that might wind up being the one for which he has always been waiting.

Washington Wizards head coach Scott Brooks offered Randle a spot on the team’s NBA Summer League roster with nothing more than a chance and most likely a spot on the G-League (formerly the D-League) roster.

“I am really grateful to have him as a coach,” Randle said of Brooks. “He wants me to be the player I want to be.

“One of the first things we talked about when he called me this summer was his recognition of the struggle it has been and how he had the same thing. His talks about playing in the CBA and playing in the Quad-Cities against the Thunder is an inspiration for me.”

Brooks knew the road Randle had been travelling and he wanted to see what Randle was all about. Randle did start the season with the Capital City Go-Go’s G-League roster.

He had a short call-up to the Wizards. Randle never saw playing time but Brooks came to understand what he had.

“We brought him up earlier and sometimes you don’t realize why you’re being brought up because you’ve got so many other things on your mind and you’re trying to be that perfect player,” Brooks said. “I was watching the things he did when he didn’t think I was watching and he earned this.

“He has a great disposition and the bottom line, as one of my coaches told me, ‘You can judge a player two ways; he is either a winner or or he is a loser.’ It is pretty harsh judging people but he is a winner.”

Finally, it happens

Randle got a second call-up last month and was getting a few minutes of playing time. Then, NBA All-Star John Wall was diagnosed with an ankle injury which would end his season. All of a sudden, Randle became a key part of the Wizards bench and his minutes went up.

Currently, Randle is averaging 15.2 minutes and 6.2 points per game as the team’s second-group point guard.

He knew, as the days moved on, his chances to stay with the Wizards for the remainder of the season were growing. Under NBA rules, if he was still on the roster through Jan. 7 his contract would become a full contract, meaning he would get paid the remainder of the season.

That happened a week ago.

“I wasn’t feeling worried because I’ve been through it before, twice in 2016-17 and then earlier this year,” Randle said. “The only thing I could do was stay in the present and let the cards fall where they may.

“I actually thought I had to wait until January 10th and it was actually the 7th. It was just another day for me but that news was really special. I talked to my agent and he told me ‘I think you’re good.’ Then, once I knew it was for sure I called my dad but he already knew from social media.”

His coach seemed to be almost as thrilled as Randle, probably because he knew what it means to have gone through the minor leagues to get to the NBA.

“I hope, as obviously he hopes, this is a start to a decade-long NBA career,” Brooks said. “He’s the right fiber for every NBA team. You win with guys with that DNA. He plays hard, he plays for his team and he celebrates his team.

“He chases loose balls; he did it in our shooting drill. I’ve only seen a few guys who have done that. He’s a winner and you want winners on your team. He has earned this. I am proud of him and I liked how he prepared for this.”

What now?

At Rock Island High School, the team needed Randle to be great. At Stanford, Randle needed to be great. In the D-League and G-League, Randle had to be great.

For the Washington Wizards, Randle needs to play his part.

That is where he learned so much during his stints with Team USA in 2009 and ‘10, as well as this year playing in four games with the Team USA World Cup Qualifying squad.

“At the NBA level, they pay good money to make shots and shoot it 20 times,” he said. “My job is to get the ball to those guys. They want me to do the little things, the things most people don’t see see on the stat sheet.

“My job here is to run the second unit and either increase the lead or take down the deficit. I have embraced my spot. I have been given a great responsibility to quarterback the second unit.”

There is no guarantee he will even end this season on the Washington roster. He can be sent down to the Go-Go’s at any point (he’ll still get his NBA salary), so there is no reason to start thinking about next season.

Randle understands professional sports and how he has to handle the future.

“I’m not sure what the Wizards think about me for the future,” Randle said. “All I do is take it a day at a time. (Last Thursday) was my off day so I went to the practice facility and did some work, went and got some groceries and started thinking about our next game.

“I can only control what I can control and that means I just have to play hard and smart every night.”

And continue to be a winner.



Jeff is a sports reporter for

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