EVANSTON, Ill. — Stanford’s Chasson Randle is a scorer. He always has been. Northwestern’s Dave Sobolewski is a distributor. He always has been.
The two guards, although different in their playing styles, have been linked since their days sharing an AAU court for the Illinois Wolves.
Randle hails from Rock Island, Ill., about a two-hour drive from Sobolewski’s hometown of Naperville, Ill.. They go to two of the most academically prestigious schools in the world and play for two disciples of Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski in Johnny Dawkins and Chris Collins.
They again shared a court last December at Welsh-Ryan Arena when Stanford beat Northwestern 70-68.
On Thursday night, Randle and Sobolewski will meet again, this time in Palo Alto, as Northwestern (1-0) takes on Stanford (1-1).
For Sobolewski, playing former-AAU teammates in college is nothing new. Along with Randle, Sobolewski played on the same team as Illinois’ Tracy Abrams and Nnanna Egwu and played both AAU and high school basketball with Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky.
“It’s been fun to kind of watch each other improve, watch each other grow,” Sobolewski said. “Being able to stay in touch with my former teammates has been a lot of fun.”
Randle, the most highly touted recruit from that group, has had probably the most decorated college career so far. The junior guard averaged almost 14 points per game during his freshman and sophomore seasons. This year, Randle is off to a torrid pace. In a 112-103 loss to BYU on Monday, Randle scored a career-high 33 points.
Being such a prolific scorer, Randle will be a main priority for Northwestern defensively. Everyone will need to know where he is on the court at all times.
“If you took each of our players individually defensively, I don’t know that we would be known as a great defensive team,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins said at practice Tuesday. “But when you put our team defense together, and the way our guys have embraced playing team defense, that’s been a good formula for us. So it’s not going to be one guy [guarding Randle]. It’s not going to be Dave or JerShon [Cobb] or Tre [Demps] just having to guard Randle, it’s going to be our team. He’s going to get by our guys at times. He’s quick and he’s a good player and that’s where we’ve got to help. With a really good player, you’re not going to shut him out. The kid’s averaging 25, 26 points per game. For us, let’s try to make him take tough shots, keep him off the free throw line and eliminate his layups in transition.”
Keeping Randle off the free throw line will be a big priority, especially with the NCAA’s new rules against hand contact from defensive players. Randle has gone to the free throw line nine times in each of his first two games.
“[The rule is] definitely a big change, but I feel like we’re pretty used to it,” said Sobolewski, who will probably be matched up with Randle for at least some of the game. “It’s the biggest change on the defensive end, obviously, just making sure we don’t play defense with out hands at all. We just got to make sure our chest is giving the contact. It’s important to recognize that.”
Last year, before the new rule changes, Sobolewski committed four personal fouls in 39 minutes against Stanford. He also didn’t make a shot, going 0-6 from the field.
In an effort to try and improve upon last year’s performance against the Cardinal, Sobolewski will remain focused on the game at hand and not who he is playing.
“Chasson is a great player,” Sobolewski said. “He has been ever since we started playing together as freshmen in high school. He’s a great competitor and a he’s a great player. We’ll be friendly before and after the game, but for those 40 minutes, it’ll be a war.”
Henry Bushnell contributed to this story.