It was the end of the road Thursday night for Rock Island's Chasson Randle, as the Stanford Cardinal lost 82 to 72 in a Sweet 16 showdown against Dayton. Randle's friends, former teachers and classmates, though, say it was a season to remember.
Dozens of Randle's fans gathered at Rooster's in Rock Island to watch the 2011 Rocky grad play in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. Among those in attendance was former high school teammate Cameron Ruiz, who admits it's still "really, really weird" to see Randle on TV.
"He deserves everything that he's getting right now, all the attention that he's getting. He deserves all of that because he's really worked his tail off," said Ruiz.
Randle's former P.E. and health teacher at Rock Island High School has also jumped on the Cardinal bandwagon. Thursday night, Rod Leatherman sported a Stanford hat and t-shirt he bought specially for the occasion.
"What I always tell people is as good as they say he is, he's actually twice as good as that. He's a wonderful person," said Leatherman.
Everyone at Randle's watch party said they had expected to see the Rock Island player on TV one day. Many added that they were proud of how he had represented his hometown while in the national spotlight.
"He's in it for the right reason -- for education first, basketball second. He's a true ambassador and a good spokesman for Rock Island," said longtime Rocky fan Norbert Tanner.
And although Stanford didn't make it to the Elite Eight, Randle managed to secure a whole new Cardinal fan base -- even 2,000 miles from California.
"You can see it right here, he's still got a following, and now, he's got a national following. That's just because he's a likeable person -- you can't not like Chasson Randle," said Ruiz.
Randle will return to Stanford next year for his senior season.