“Competitor,’’ Dawkins told MSGNetworks.com. “Just a fierce competitor.’’
He also remembers his first impression of Randle, the person.
“One of the most genuine kids I ever met,’’ Dawkins said.
“You put that together and I remember thinking, ‘Whatever Chasson decides to do, he’s going to be a success.’’’
Randle went on to play for Dawkins at Stanford, where he left as the school’s all-time leading scorer. When Dawkins left Duke as a player, he was that program’s all-time leader scorer.
Randle was a scoring guard who had to learn to play the point. Dawkins was a shooting guard who had to learn to play the point.
The Knicks rookie point guard and UCF’s first-year coach are kindred spirits.
“Yeah, I saw a lot of me in him, at least the positive aspects,’’ Dawkins quipped.
Randle and Dawkins haven’t been able to connect much recently. Randle is working overtime to pick up the nuances of the Knicks’ systems on both ends of the court.
Dawkins’ UCF squad (20-10) was set to begin play in the America Athletic Conference against Memphis. When the Golden Knights upset Cincinnati, 53-49, on Feb. 26, it marked the program’s first win over a Top-25 team since 2011.
Dawkins has stayed on top of Randle’s every move, the most recent one occurring on Feb. 27. The day after UCF’s watershed win, the Knicks signed the point guard who had impressed them in summer league.
The Knicks didn’t have a roster spot going into the season, so Randle played for the D-League Westchester Knicks, where he continued to dazzle. Randle averaged 21 points, four rebounds, three assists and one steal in 32 minutes, while shooting 40% from three-point range.
He signed with the Philadelphia 76ers, but was never off the Knicks’ radar.
“We saw him in training camp and liked him then,’’ coach Jeff Hornacek told reporters. “We were all surprised that nobody picked him up prior to Philadelphia getting him. We were stuck with 15 guaranteed roster spots. It was tough to keep him.
“But we always thought when he becomes available, we’re going to try to get him back somehow.”
Mission accomplished. The Sixers waived Randle after bloating their roster with players at the NBA trade deadline.
“I was really disappointed for Chasson because I know how hard he worked to get to the NBA and I thought there was a good opportunity,’’ Dawkins said. “But I knew Chasson wasn’t going to be deterred. He’s such a determined young man.
“And he’s talented. He’s intelligent. He works hard. As I mentioned, he’s a competitor. But no one should think he doesn’t have the talent to play at that level. I think the Knicks are seeing that.’’
They are. After Philly released Randle, the Knicks waived Brandon Jennings. Randle wasted little time reminding the Knicks of what he brings to the court.
In a 113-105 win at Orlando on Monday, Randle fueled a 19-4 fourth quarter run that turned the game. He finished with seven points, five assists, five rebounds and a staggering plus-27 in 25 minutes.
“It felt good, especially when you can go out there and play halfway decent and win a game,’’ Randle said. “I tried to come out there and play with energy. The result was a win. I’m glad we got it and in this jersey.’’
Baker, at 6-foot-4, 220, is a more physical presence than the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Randle. Baker can defend bigger guards. Randle is a better ball handler. Both have tremendous upside and the intangibles Hornacek is looking for.
“He just knows how to play,’’ Hornacek said of Randle. “He does the little things. I can’t say enough for a guy who hasn’t played yet and then all of a sudden gets in there.”