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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Keegan

Opinion: Like so many before him, KU point guard Mason impresses early

Kansas guard Frank Mason coasts in for a bucket past Fort Hays State guard Achoki Moikobu during the first half of an exhibition game on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013.

Kansas guard Frank Mason coasts in for a bucket past Fort Hays State guard Achoki Moikobu during the first half of an exhibition game on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Frank Mason, Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor react to KU's win over Fort Hays State

Frank Mason, Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor react to KU's win over Fort Hays State

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

KU men's basketball coach Bill Self says team needs to turn up the energy more

Following Tuesday's 92-75 exhibition victory over Fort Hays State, KU men's basketball coach Bill Self said his team needs to turn up the energy more and he expects it will during Friday's regular season opener.

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It happens nearly every year. A freshman plays a terrific game against a Div. II team in an exhibition and I raise my expectations to the moon, conveniently forgetting that the overmatched opponent might have had something to do with it.

The best way to look at the performance of a young Kansas University player in a game vs. one of the four in-state D-II teams is to treat it as if the KU freshmen are juniors or seniors playing against a bunch of freshmen.

Thomas Robinson dominated Pittsburg State as a freshman, totaling 17 points, seven rebounds, three blocked shots and two steals. I was convinced Kansas had its next star. I was wrong, as Robinson too often played out of control that year and at times as a sophomore. Then I was right, when as a junior Robinson finished as runner-up to national player of the year Anthony Davis.

So consider yourself warned when reading what I write about freshmen in exhibition games. Be more patient than I am. Remember that in a week’s time the challenge grows from arithmetic to advanced calculus, from D-II to D-U-K-E.

OK, now that all the qualifiers are out of the way, freshman point guard Frank Mason sure did look like a player Tuesday night in leading KU to a 92-75 victory against Fort Hays State.

Other than Joel Embiid, a 7-footer who with a tall enough partner could blow away the competition on Dancing with the Stars, so graceful are his feet, Mason put on the most entertaining show of anybody in Allen Fieldhouse.

Given the starting assignment because that’s what he’ll do in Friday night’s season opener as Naadir Tharpe sits out a one-game suspension, Mason ran the team with equal parts confidence and emotion, substance and style. In 19 minutes, he totaled four points, six assists, three steals and a blocked shot. And he turned it over just once.

“I thought he played really well,” 11th-year KU coach Bill Self said. “Frank was probably about as good a performer as we had tonight.”

When he made stylish plays, he did so with a purpose and looked fast and smooth doing it.

With the ball near the left edge of the free-throw line, Mason pump-faked his defender into the air, dribbled to the right and zipped a beauty of a pass to vastly improved Jamari Traylor for an easy bucket. He stole the ball under the Fort Hays State basket and whipped a left-handed pass behind his back to start a break. He started another break by dribbling behind his back to free himself from a crowd, was off to the races, made eye contact with Andrew Wiggins and connected with him for a crowd-pleasing slam.

“I could have been a lot better,” Mason said afterward. “I thought I did a good job of getting my teammates involved and communicated with them and tired to be a positive leader.”

He communicated with the opposition, too, in a fearless and demonstrative way once or twice.

“He took care of the basketball and he played with energy and he played without fouling,” Self said. “Their point guard, Craig (Nicholson), who’s a great kid, quick, I’ve known him for a while. He’s hard to guard. He’s a good player and Frank did a pretty good job on him, keeping him out of the paint.”

Mason gets the treat of hearing his name called in Allen Fieldhouse because Tharpe played in a summer exhibition game in Chicago, a no-no because it wasn’t in his hometown, and incurred a one-game suspension. When Self found out, he turned beat red, opened the window so the steam whistling out his ears wouldn’t melt the room and then informed the athletic department’s compliance department to let them know to self-report it to the NCAA.

The consequences of Tharpe’s unwise decision weren’t all bad.

“It’ll be good for our team — even though I wish we weren’t doing it, playing without Naadir — (because) it puts pressure on Frank,” Self said of Friday’s game against Louisiana-Monroe.

That can only help Mason better prepare for the pressure Duke applies when Tharpe needs a breather next Tuesday in the United Center.

Comments

Doug Cramer 9 months, 4 weeks ago

Tom - 100% agree. Was also impressed with Mason. You mention that this happens every year...that a freshman tears it up in exhibition. I think this is different. You can see Mason's natural ability to create shots for others. EJ didn't have that kind of ability...even as a senior. It's taken Tharp two seasons to play close to that level...and I'm not even sure if Tharp creates shots that well to be honest.

If we had a PG like Mason in last year's game against Michigan...we win that game by at least 10 points. Oh that game still burns deep...

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Ethan Berger 9 months, 4 weeks ago

Tharpe is extremely good at creating shots. He will blow people away this year and we will have one heck of a starting point in Mason in two years when Tharpe has left

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Aaron Paisley 9 months, 4 weeks ago

Tharpe looked calm, poised, under control, and like a great PG two years ago when Taylor and EJ were suspended for the exhibition games. Then the regular season started and Tharpe couldn't get out of his own way. Mason will likely be pretty good PG down the road, but he still has a long way to go before he plays like he did last night against an elite D1 team.

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Aaron Paisley 9 months, 4 weeks ago

ULM would beat Pitt and Ft. Hays 8 out of 10 times if they played. ULM has D1 athletes and Pitt and Ft. Hays have D2 athletes and there is a big difference between the two.

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Erich Hartmann 9 months, 4 weeks ago

Tharpe and Mason's "roles" are a lot better defined this season, due to their very strong supporting cast. That role is FEED the scorers. Elijah Johnson was not only asked to run the point last year, but also provide double-digit scoring--so every play he faced was a balancing act between 2 basics: score? or pass? Notice that Tharpe came in and also was expected to score from the PG position (since he was subbing for PG), thus he shot it alot also. The PG role THIS year is much more distributive. When I think back of all the positive plays Elijah made for us over his 2+ yrs of play, I have no problem. He was better suited for the 2guard/backup combo that he was with Tyshawn as lead guard, a duo which only got us all the way to the champ game. Hey, losing to UNI and VCU hurt way, way more than losing to Michigan. Have a little arrogance as a KU/royalty fan and realize we go deep in almost every March Madness. But I'm not mad at Sherron & Reed for UNI, nor am I mad at Reed, Brady, and Markieff about VCU, so why would I be mad at EJ for Michigan.

If anything, I am sorry that EJ couldnt harness and play with his "IowaState" intensity for most of his career (like Tyshawn could). If he could have, he would have been a 1st round pick, no doubt.

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Doug Cramer 9 months, 4 weeks ago

Why should you be upset at EJ for losing to Michigan ?

You shouldn't...because in that grand scheme of things...it's just a game. But make no mistake.....EJ SINGLE HANDEDLY lost that game against Mich last year.

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