Chasson Randle will tell you he would not have gotten where he has without the care, support and teamwork of his parents.
Both were on hand for the successful debut of Chasson’s Dream Big Youth Camp at Rock Island Fieldhouse on Friday.
Randle's dad, Willie, also a Rock Island graduate, was quick to point out his son has had a lot of local support in his climb from Rock Island youth hoops player to high school state champion to Stanford all-time leading scorer to where he is now — an NBA player with the New York Knicks.
“It’s not just been me and my wife, “Willie said. “It’s always been a big support with him and the people in the community and his family. It takes a lot of help from family and friends to get to his success.”
Friday, Randle returned to the Fieldhouse floor that he once starred on to give back. Just as he was back in his high school days for the Rocks, Randle was on a mission.
As well over 200 kids ran through basketball drills from experienced coaches, many of them from youth programs in the area, Randle jumped in and taught things like defense, shooting or ball-handling. There was constant positive encouragement from coaches all around reinforcing more than just the right way to do the drills.
While beckoning a media member to stay and watch, Randle noted, “The kids will leave this experience kind of getting a mini-example, a mini-run through of the people who’ve been involved in my life.”
Through his childhood friend, Thurgood Brooks of Tut Cities Education and Entertainment, Randle put out the word he wanted people passionate about basketball helping out at his camp.
And there was plenty of coaching help in running athletes through drills and educational classes in timed 20-minute segments throughout the day.
But if people were expecting this to be just a Rock Island show for Rock Islanders, they could not have been more wrong. Coaches came from all over the Quad-Cities, and so did the fifth through eighth grade campers.
“It’s bigger than Moline, Rock Island, Davenport, Bettendorf,” said former Moline High School and Indian Hills Community College player, Wesley McCorkle, who responded to a call from Randle to help. “This is a Quad-City thing. This is big what Chasson has done for the community, and it is really uniting everybody together.
“It’s kids from all different schools that are coming here. It’s a beautiful thing that you have somebody that can give back to the community like this, and I just want to be a part of that.”
Bettendorf teachers and youth coaches Shad Graham and Scott Berg volunteered because of their passion for basketball.
“I can’t get enough basketball,” Graham said. “And if I can be a part of something positive, then count me in.”
For all, part of the draw was clearly Randle.
Ayana Pacley, a Bettendorf Middle School student, signed up to get better at basketball, make new friends and experience something new. But she was dazzled when Randle walked by.
“Once I saw Chasson Randle pass me, I was freaking out inside. ‘Oh my God, it’s Chasson Randle. I was like ‘Ayana, keep your cool,’” she laughed. “He seems like a cool guy.”
Tynan Numkena, a Bettendorf middle schooler going into eighth grade, said he came to get better at basketball.
“It’s a good opportunity,” he said.
Robert Pulliam, a cousin of Randle’s who will be in eighth grade at Edison Junior High in Rock Island next year, also wanted to improve his game.
“I just wanted to get some work in for the summer,” he said, noting that he was learning a lot.
The camp’s other plan to get kids thinking caught his attention, too.
“That’s pretty good because there’s a lot of kids out here not making good decisions,” he said. “It’s good for them to learn new things.”
A constant theme harped on by coaches teaching the drills was not to give up on one’s dreams.
“I think that it’s a good experience for kids because it’s about how your dreams can come true and don’t give up on your dreams because they will come true if you put your mind to it," Pacley said.
The camp also wanted to make sure kids had fun. And whether it was Kevin Beal, Brea Beal’s dad, bumping into kids, teaching them how to take a charge, and helping them up followed by a quick high-five, or Randle interacting with them as he made the rounds, kids never looked bored.
“I am just glad the kids seem to be having a good time with the instructors,” said Brooks as he took a break during lunch to shoot a few hoops himself.
The event, which had a planning meeting just a few weeks ago at the Martin Luther King Center in Rock Island, had gone off mostly as expected.
“We always want to get it better, but for a first year, I am very pleased," Brooks said. "And the kids seem to be really receptive as to how we do things.”
Though coaches and kids were from all over, the camp also had its Rock Island flavor. Former Rock and current Montana State star Tyler Hall and current Illinois Ms. Basketball, Brea Beal, were on hand.
“Basically, it’s a good look on Rock Island,” said Beal, who served as a volunteer coach. “We are finally doing something with all these kids. Push them along and give them courage.”
She was happy to be a role model and let girls there know she’s there for them.
“I want them to know even if basketball is not what they really want to do in the future, that they learn no matter what, you always got to try,” she said. “Push yourself even if you fumble. Push yourself no matter what.”
It sounds like Randle wants to push the well-run, well-received camp to even greater heights in the future.
“We will kind of carve out the kings and do it bigger and better next year,” he said. “I am excited about growing the whole thing. It’s for the kids.”