Thursday, December 12, 2013


Column: Like predecessors, Mason should grow out of inconsistency, into talent

In his time at Kansas University, Bill Self has coached up several talented but inconsistent freshman point guards, including Sherron Collins, left, in 2006-07, and Frank Mason, right, this season.

In his time at Kansas University, Bill Self has coached up several talented but inconsistent freshman point guards, including Sherron Collins, left, in 2006-07, and Frank Mason, right, this season.


— Nobody can make a freshman point guard play like a rookie quite like a polished senior backed by a frenzied crowd in a building where only a few feet separate the spectators from the participants.

Frank Mason, Kansas University’s super fast, ultra competitive freshman from Petersburg, Va., had his moments Tuesday night in the O’Connell Center, Florida’s on-campus arena. Mason made his first two three-point shots. After taking an outlet pass from classmate Joel Embiid, Mason blew past traffic and looked as fast as Jadeveon Clowney behind the wheel of a car on his way to a tough bucket.

Florida senior Scottie Wilbekin had his moments, too, such as all 36 minutes he was on the floor, varying his pace and making smart plays at both ends. Wilbekin was one of four seniors starting for the Gators, Mason one of four freshmen in the Jayhawks’ starting lineup. The bigger the moment, the better Wilbekin performed for the Gators. He put pressure on KU at both ends and consistently knocked down big shots, finishing the night with 18 points, six assists, four steals and two turnovers.

A hometown recruit, Wilbekin didn’t enter college basketball playing that way. Very few do. He averaged 2.4 points and 1.6 assists as a freshman and 2.6 points and 1.6 assists as a sophomore.

The day will come when Mason competes on the other end of the experience disparity, a senior exposing the youth of a talented freshman. Tuesday night he was on the wrong end of a mismatch, but he’s ahead of schedule and was far from the first talented guard to have a rough night (no assists, five turnovers) as a freshman. In his second game for KU, Mario Chalmers committed seven turnovers in 17 minutes vs. Arizona in Nov. 2005.

In KU’s previous meeting with Florida, on Nov. 25, 2006, the Jayhawks brought a quick, confident relentless competitor of a freshman off the bench to play alongside Chalmers. The reserve was the king of the no-no-no-yes play and sometimes just the oh-no play. Watching him play basketball made the mind drift to picturing him in a satin robe, eyes locked, boxing gloves on his hands, standing in his corner, shaking the tension out of his legs, readying himself for a bloody battle. Sherron Collins triggered the imagination the way Mason does now.

Collins didn’t have it that 2006 night in Las Vegas against the Gators, where he played just seven scoreless minutes and had nothing to show for them but three personal fouls. Three seasons later, Collins was a first-team All-American. No reason to think Mason can’t make the same strides and earn the same accolades.

KU coach Bill Self had the luxury of making a sixth man out of Collins in 2006-2007 because he had a steadier hand at point guard. No frills, few spills junior Russell Robinson kept the ball moving in KU’s half-court offense and, as part of the Jayhawks’ sound man-to-man defense, did a nice job of keeping it from moving.

Collins’ game wasn’t yet refined enough to run the team, but that didn’t keep KU from going 33-5 and all the way to the Elite Eight that season.

There is no Robinson available to enable Self to ease Mason into playing the point, a position foreign to him until this season. Naadir Tharpe is two years ahead of Mason, the same experience gap between Collins and Robinson. So far, Tharpe hasn’t mastered the art of rapid ball movement. He’s a couple of inches shorter than Robinson, not as strong, and doesn’t defend as well.

Self will play some combination of Mason and Tharpe at the point and will continue to play them together for stretches. How much the point guards improve during the season will play a big part in determining whether KU can push its first-place Big 12 streak to 10 seasons and in how long KU’s season lasts.

At the moment, the position is the No. 1 concern for Kansas, off to a 6-3 start.

Comparing Mason and Collins

First nine games of college careers

Frank Mason921.
Sherron Collins918.


Bernard Gregory 4 months, 1 week ago

Someone hit the nail on the head and its related to a comment I made on another post.If Frank stop waiting on the 5 star players to get things going and be more assertive in the beginning then you will see a better team because I know that he knows how to penetrate in those zones,but what I see from watching the games is that he is deferring to the guys that most are expecting to be the ones to attack . I hoestly feel that he has to realize that coach Self has given him the start for to be that guy but he is not convinced that is the case. Once he gets comfortable knowing that watch out.


Benz Junque 4 months, 1 week ago

It's way too early to start cutting down to specific people. While I still want starters to get the vast chunk of the time, I have no problem with Self still trying to alternate between Greene or White and then Lucas or Black.


Scut Farkus 4 months, 1 week ago

Regardless of much perceived talent is on this team, Coach Self needs to pare this down to an 8 man rotation. Black, Greene and Frankamp should not be a part of that. Starters: Mason, Seldon, Wiggins, Embiid, Ellis Bench rotation: Tharpe, AWIII, Traylor The others could receive some minutes based on fouls, score etc. etc. but it's time to tighten things up and build some cohesion.


Chris Shaw 4 months, 1 week ago

Does anybody remember last year when Tharpe tried to take over games? He did this because B-Mac, Relly, and EJ weren't exceptional "Scorers". When those guys were ice cold and doing nothing on offense...Tharpe would then take it upon himself to get aggressive and try and bail them out.

This year, Wiggins, Greene, and Selden are suppose to be Kansas' "Scorers" and much better (Based on Perception and stupid recruiting rankings) than EJ, B-MAC, and Relly.

Well, the problem is that when Wiggins, Ellis, Selden, Greene, etc aren't doing their job...Tharpe is now doing his job still by deferring to those guys when things are going really bad.

Tharpe and Mason are actually waiting for those guys to take over and at the last resort when it isn't happening Mason has taken on the role of Tharpe last year...which is something he got slammed for last year.

Tharpe is in a lose/lose situation IMO because if Selden and Wiggins were truly taking on the "Scorers" duties like they should be doing (Like Wiggins did in the second half)....we wouldn't even be talking about these PG issues.


Ethan Berger 4 months, 1 week ago

I'm starting to think, like Chris Shaw, that the issues are not really point guard related. Jack Wilson, I know you watched the game again so if you read this, correct me if I'm wrong.

But from what I've seen is our off the ball guys just don't move. Our points are expected to do everything and it's been hard. I think Naadir is a much player then what we have seen. He looks to be forcing the issue. Frank is a bulldog but hasn't been as much as of recent weeks because of the zone. I'm thinking that once are guys start moving off the ball, our offense will open up. Guys will be able to drive better and more importantly started drawing more fouls.


Michael Pannacciulli 4 months, 1 week ago

I have bigger concerns about Selden. His release is not great and most games you rarely know he's on the floor. His physique for his position is a bonus but is he using it to his advantage? I still have high hopes for him...hoping he has a beeak out game soon!


Chris Shaw 4 months, 1 week ago

This is not a PG issue at the moment for Kansas.

It's Kansas and Self trying to figure out how get the tempo and speed of the game back into Kansas' favor. Opponents are going to continue to mix up full court pressure, 3/4 court pressure, token pressure, and these 1-3-1, 3-2, and 2-3 zones.

Wiggins finally stepped up his role in the second half, but Selden has been virtually invisible since these teams starting going to these gimmick zones to slow down Kansas.

Until Kansas starts making opponents pay for using these gimmick zones...Kansas will continue to struggle.

Anybody notice that when Tharpe/Mason was in the game that Donovan would immediately switch to the 1-3-1 zone with his longest player out front?

Self IMO is struggling with his combinations and utilizing his personnel. Selden is great against Man defenses and worthless against Zone defenses. Greene hasn't been good against man defenses and is pretty good against zone defenses. What to do?

I liked Greene as a point/forward. I liked it a lot.


Mike Riches 4 months, 1 week ago

Great article comparing these two bulldogs! Really, what impresses me most about Mason is how much he has improved over the past couple years. As Rich mentioned above, Collins was a McDonald's All-American and one of the highest rated PG his senior year, Mason was signing with Towson coming out of high school. Think about how much he has grown since his senior year, and it's easy to imagine how good he could be by the end of this year, let alone after four years at Kansas! I believe that's why he got the starting job so early, not because he's a lot better than Tharpe right now, but because Tharpe, after 2+ years in this system, wasn't showing any sign that he was going to run it extremely well by year's end. Yes, Mason has a lot to work on, but he has shown that he can and will work and improve.


Rich Hetherington 4 months, 1 week ago

Will we ever see a game where we combine for say 12 of 16 three-point shooting? With AWIII, Frankamp, Greene, Seldon, Wiggins and Tharpe on this team, I don't understand why we haven't shot the 3 ball a bit better this year. I just can't wait until we improve our inside/outside game to create more dunking and lay-up opportunities, but maybe more importantly, lead to some over 3's... and then to see them fall, that will be a great day!


Asad Zoberi 4 months, 1 week ago

I was discussing the Florida game last with my 10 yr old son. I said several things to him as to how:

  1. KU is so young this year, starting 4 Frosh vs 4 Seniors last year
  2. How KU's schedule has been so brutal, toughest non-conf in the country
  3. How Tarik Black and Naadir Tharpe have not been able to provide the leadership everyone had hoped they would
  4. How KU has not played early games in the friendly home environment
  5. And several other points

After listening to my speech for about 15 mins, my son looked at me and made only one comment' "Dad KU players don't huddle"

His comment made me speechless and I asked myself some questions. Are our talented players playing as a team? Are they communicating on the floor? Are they supporting each other? Are they backing each other? I could not say Yes without hesitation to any of these questions.


Ron Franklin 4 months, 1 week ago

Whoops. Forgot about the pound thing. I promise I'm not yelling at you Mr. Oak :)

I have not been able to watch the game yet-apparently this is an important time of the year for children and my wife for some reason thinks Basketball isn't that important....I tell her she's the crazy one.

Did Greene playing (as I did see on a few plays) point, bringing ball up help beat the zone? Did his height play an advantage over the 5'9 eyes of Mason & Naadir?

If so, why did Bill wait so long to get someone who could actually see inside to make passes. I've read a lot of posts that there were rainbow passes. That, to me, indicates a height issue.

Reminds me of my senior year when I was pulled out of the backfield to play QB after ours went down. Since I'm about 5'7" I just kept lobbing rainbow passes to my tight end--hoping he was in his spot bc I couldn't see him.

The ol 88TE Dump

Of course we won the game :)


Tony Bandle 4 months, 1 week ago


1] Look at the pictures above..not only does Bill seem to be wearing the same toup, it looks like he is wearing the same suit and he doesn't look a day older!!

2] KU's next four opponents [NM, Geo'tn, Toledo, SDST have a current accumulated record of 28-4......add to that the team records of opponents already played, 60-18, the total is 88-22.......Bill must have been chewing peyote when he made this schedule. :)

3] Will the following individuals please report to The Sprint Center on Saturday in place of their stunt doubles.....Tarik Black, Naadir Tharpe, Wayne Selden...thank you.

4] There's a new game out for Christmas. It's called WHERE IN THE WORLD IS AWIII????

5] Santa leaked HCBS's Christmas List; backline defense, outside shooting, increased aggressive play, less fouling, more driving to the hoop and a new power drill.


Robert Brock 4 months, 1 week ago

Wasn't the starting point guard supposed to be Cat Barber? Fact is, Coach Self has missed on several point guard recruits. When that happens, you end up with Naadir Tharpe and Frank Mason.


Suzi Marshall 4 months, 1 week ago

Longer terms, I also think Mason will be fine. My concern is for this year when we have Wiggins and Embiid. Did Tharpe do to get ready for this year? He knew this year was his time to lead the team. It looks like he's taken a giant step backwards in every phase of his game, especially D.

We will have 3-5 big time Big 12 competitors this year. ISU, Baylor and OSU all will be capable to challenge for the National Championship while OU and Texas will probably be solid tournament teams. The Big 12 winner(s) may have 3 or 4 conference losses this year. In a few weeks we find ourselves going into conference play with not PG again. What a pity to have so much talent with nobody to lead. If this team finds a way to win the Big 12 it will be one of Self's best coaching years.


Rich Hetherington 4 months, 1 week ago

The main difference between the 2 to me is that while Sherron wasn't getting a ton of assists, I already considered him a better passer. He also finished at the rim, and while there's not a huge different in their shooting % this far into their careers, Sherron was a McDonalds all American and you could see it even early on. He was able to drive to the rim and put the ball in the hoop. That's something I really hope we see from Mason as time goes on. In the mean time, we have Tharpe for the remainder of his Junior and Senior years and I hope to see him make strides into becoming a leader as well. I want to see the Tharpe that came into the Ohio St. game last year and had 9 assists, 0 turn-overs, and the Tharpe that everyone was crying to see start over EJ last year! What happened to that guy? My guess it's that he doesn't have experienced guys like Withey, Releford and EJ to pass to, not to mention McLemore, but he does have bright, talented freshmen that will become more and more dependable as the year goes on, and that goes the same for Mason.


Scott Newell 4 months, 1 week ago

Taylor was a stud from December on his senior year. We will take that from Mason or Tharpe.


Bryce Landon 4 months, 1 week ago

Tharpe looked better last season than he has so far this season.


Ferd Magellan 4 months, 1 week ago

Collins was asked to give the team points his freshman year. To provide instant energy off the bench. We had Robinson, Chalmers and Wright in '07, so the passing was very balanced. We don't have that kind of group this year. There are only 2 ball-handlers on this team (particularly against the zone). Mason is supposed to provide assists. He's supposed to do whatever it takes to get inside that zone and give the ball to Ellis, Embiid or kick it out to Wiggins. He has little trouble getting in the paint against man defense, but the ball seems to stick to his hands once he makes it.

KU is a PG away from being a title contender. Right now they don't have an adequate one.


Benz Junque 4 months, 1 week ago

His predecessors, Johnson and Taylor, were still inconsistent in their senior years. I hope he grows out of it a LOT faster than they did.


Dirk Medema 4 months, 1 week ago

"No frills, few spills, keep the ball moving in KU’s half-court offense"

This is (supposed to be) Tharpe. Yes, there are differences, and the D unfortunately is the most (only) significant difference.


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