Friday, November 8, 2013

Freshman guard Mason brings determination, preparation to spot start

Kansas University freshman point guard Frank Mason will be asked to lead KU on the court in its season opener tonight against Louisiana at Monroe. Mason, starting in place of suspended junior Naadir Tharpe, says he’s been “confident from Day 1.”

Kansas University freshman point guard Frank Mason will be asked to lead KU on the court in its season opener tonight against Louisiana at Monroe. Mason, starting in place of suspended junior Naadir Tharpe, says he’s been “confident from Day 1.”


Frank Mason reflected on the day a West Virginia University football coach attended the Petersburg (Va.) High basketball practice to see his teammate, offensive lineman Quinton Spain.

“We were doing footwork drills,” said Mason, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound point guard. “I was a strong, little guard and the coach was like, ‘You shouldn’t be playing basketball. You look like a nice cornerback.’ I didn’t play any football in high school.”

It’s always nice to receive a compliment, but Mason didn’t give it a second thought that day.

“The next day of school they took me out of class and talked to me and wanted to offer me a scholarship,” Mason said.

Watching one basketball practice was enough to convince the coach. That’s the sort of loud speed, strength and agility Mason brings to the Kansas University basketball program.

“We’ve had some guys who are pretty fast. I don’t know if we’ve had anybody other than Tyshawn (Taylor) that’s for sure faster with the ball than he is,” 11th-year Kansas coach Bill Self said. “I think when he gets comfortable and turns it loose, we’ll see another gear because right now he’s playing safe a little bit, which is what I want him to do until he gets comfortable. But he is fast with the ball.”

Plenty of great athletes don’t make it to Division I schools because they can’t push themselves hard enough to get there. That never was a problem for Mason, according to a KU teammate who said he has known him since he was 10.

“I’m just happy for him because we grew up together,” sophomore Andrew White III said. “Now seeing him on this stage, playing so well, it means a lot to me, too.”

Mason and White teamed for a couple of years of AAU ball and played against each other for four years in high school.

“We had a lot of fun,” Mason said. “He’s a shooter. He always could shoot, but he has gotten a lot better. He attacks more. He can handle the ball better. He wasn’t the best back in high school at that. He’s more aggressive and strong. He just became real strong.”

Strength never was an issue for Mason. Making school a top priority was. He comes to Kansas from Massanutten Military Academy in Woodstock, Va. If he had passed his U.S. government class as a senior at Petersburg High, he would be passing basketballs for Towson University, not hearing his name called with four other starters in Allen Fieldhouse in tonight’s season-opener. He’s starting in place of Naadir Tharpe, suspended for one game.

Mason said he fell three points shy of passing that class. He passed it late summer, he said, but by then he was on his way to a year of strict preparation as a student, a person and an athlete.

“It was a bad thing at the time,” Mason said about not passing the class. “It’s a good thing now.”

In between high school and KU, he spent a year at the military academy, rising at 6:15 every morning, marching in uniform with the rest of his company three times a day, including in formation on the way to breakfast.

“My year at the military school my coaches really pushed me,” Mason said. “They worked us every day, no days off, just a lot of days of getting better, getting stronger and becoming more of a leader. I became a better basketball player and a better individual off the court too.”

The driven personality preceded the marching in formation, in uniform.

“People told me I would never make it out of the city of Petersburg and I did,” he said. “They said I wouldn’t graduate high school, which I did. They told me I wouldn’t make it through Massanutten, and I did that too.”

As is the case with so many athletes who spend a lot of time surrounded by taller men, Mason has a knack for fueling the disadvantage into an edge. He said he thought the first time he executed a between-the-legs-in-mid-air dunk came during his junior year at Petersburg, where he ranks second on the career-scoring list to Hall of Fame center Moses Malone.

“One day after a high school practice, I was 5-9, maybe 5-10 then,” Mason said. “I just told a couple of players I thought I could do it. They said I couldn’t. I proved them wrong and they just left the gym. Walked right out the door.”

For one game, Tharpe’s door closed because he played in a summer league game in Chicago. The starting opportunity opened for Mason. To get him used to the role, Self started Mason in the 92-75 exhibition victory against Fort Hays State. Afterward, Self said he thought Mason was the team’s best player in the game.

“I was just confident from Day 1,” Mason said of making the adjustment to college basketball, surrounded by more famous teammates everywhere he looked.

That attitude, he said, carried over to the Fort Hays State starting assignment.

“I know what my ability is and I just believed in my teammates,” Mason said. “I was never nervous. I was prepared for that game. I just believed in my teammates and made it happen.”

Mason will be asked to do the same tonight. The teammate who has known him the longest believes he’ll deliver the basketball on time and in stride.

“I’ve always seen him rise to the occasion, two of us as kids, playing against grown men,” White said.


Doug Cramer 7 years, 4 months ago

Mason clearly wasn't ranked high enough by some of the scouting services. What a great "get" by coach Self !!!

Going back to the Mich game last year...this is the guy I want as a point guard to finish that game off.

Jeff Mills 7 years, 4 months ago

Many scouts just see that "5" in his height and drop him way down because of that. I will take a sub-6-footer running the point any day over Elijah Johnson.

Ethan Berger 7 years, 4 months ago

cheap shot, must be easy to attack a kid who played his heart out for 4 years at this university while you did what? I would pay to see you play EJ one on one.

Ethan Berger 7 years, 4 months ago

How does that game relate to Frank Mason? How does EJ have anything to do with Frank Mason? Mason and EJ will never play on the same team so the comparison has no merit. If EJ was on the team, then there is a point because you would be saying Mason should start over EJ. And before we talk about blaming EJ over the Michigan game. Lets give blame where it is due. Trey Burke made some unbelievable plays, he deserves blame more then EJ.

Jeff Mills 7 years, 4 months ago

The conversation is about Frank's stature, and that he wasn't ranked highly coming out of HS, yet seems to be someone who can make an immediate impact.

I use EJ as a prime example of someone who was NOT ready to make and immediate impact, but was ranked higher because of his length and athleticism. But idiots on this site like to put words in peoples' mouths. That will never change.

Ethan Berger 7 years, 4 months ago

"I would take a sub 6 footer playing point anyway over EJ." Explain that quote for me? Frank Mason has yet to play a game for us ( a real one) and yet here you are already crowning him. Your quote doesn't need words to be shoved into your mouth. If you were as smart as you think, you would say you would take Frank Mason over EJ any day. But instead you make it seem that any point under 6 feet tall would be better then EJ. It's a cheap shot because EJ has nothing to do with this team or article but yet y'all find a way to bash EJ.

Aaron Paisley 7 years, 4 months ago

You can count on 1 hand the number of good games EJ had at PG for KU last year. Nobody has ever questioned EJ's heart or dedication to KU, just his talent level. EJ was a 5 star kid coming out of HS and could never beat out Brady Morningstar for a starting spot, that's a major misjudgement of where his talent level was at.

Eliott Reeder 7 years, 4 months ago

People, please get over this EJ-hating nonsense. He may have made some mistakes here and there, missed some key shots, mental errors or whatever, but who hasn't? Where's the hate for Kirk Hinrich and Mike Lee for not making a three to tie the NC in '03? Should we all hate Wayne Simien because he didn't make that turn-around jumper vs Bucknell? Or maybe you think we should disown Wilt Chamberlain as a Jayhawk because he failed to win the NC in triple-overtime against UNC in '57? Elijah Johnson was a very good four-year player for our beloved team. That means tons of hard work, blood, sweat, and tears were spent by him to be the best he could be. He should not be singled out and blamed for anything. It is a team game, and his team lost a little earlier than all of us would like. That can be said about many players before him and many players to come... deal with it.

Jack Wilson 7 years, 4 months ago

And please remember that without EJ, we don't get to the final four in 2012. Lots of big shots.

He was a two guard, forced to the play the point. We know that now. A square peg in a round hole.

And it was Self's choice to play him in that role, and to have him in over Tharpe at the end of the Michigan game. And it was Self who chose not to foul Burke, right? And Self chose to run a clear-out play for EJ with the season on the line, right?

Lots of reasons teams lose games. Not every decision goes as planned. Most of Self's decision go the right way.

Jeff Mills 7 years, 4 months ago

You're a moron, Ethan. THAT is a cheap shot. In what way is me saying I'd rather have a shorter PG, and ACTUAL PG in over EJ... who was simply out of position... a cheap shot?

I'll play YOU one on one... how bout that?

Ethan Berger 7 years, 4 months ago

Because this has nothing to do with EJ. I'd rather have Wilt Chamberlin then Jefd withey. What's the point of knowing that? Nothing, don't bring up a kid who spilled his heart on the court for us and then saying you would rather have some kid who has never played replace a guy who did so much for us. And unfortunately for you I'm under 6' tall, so you couldn't hang with me on the hardwood.

Kevin Huffman 7 years, 4 months ago

And he's barely in the 5's.....Doesn't it start out by saying that he's 5'-11, 185?

Jeff Mills 7 years, 4 months ago

She made $17586 in a few hours. But it's $65/hour? You are stupid Dorothy. I dunk all over Jeff Withey... and then say "block this, chump". And then I go do your buddy's sister-in-law. Trust me on this.

Glen Miller 7 years, 4 months ago

My dad's friend from high school works for John Deere and I don't know what he makes. He's never been laid off that I know of.....

Tony Bandle 7 years, 4 months ago

C'mon about a little police work and wipe these self-serving trolls off this site. I frankly don't care of Dorothy's dog pressed one key and made $100,000......keep this site clean and clear!!!!

Evan Bilyeu 7 years, 4 months ago

Sooo is google paying you to make these comments??

Andrew Cox 7 years, 4 months ago

Massanutten is in Woodstock, VA not Bethesda, MD

Steve Kubler 7 years, 4 months ago

Thinking back to when Self signed Mason there was a lot of comments on how he had failed to pick up who he was after and settled, and perhaps had lost his recruiting mojo. Now the kid who Self settled for is starting in the first real game of the season as a freshman. Dang, I wish when I settled for something it turned out that nice!

The true worth of Frank Mason won't be known for awhile. However I've seen enough to make me think this young man will be pretty valuable for KU for a number of years. Have you noticed he's pretty darn fast? and now HCBS says he's taking it easy? I was at the Pitt game, if he can go faster than what I saw there all I can do is smile.

Maybe Self knows what he is doing after all. *(sarcasm for those who don't notice)

Bob Thompson 7 years, 4 months ago

Good chance at 5'11" he will be a 4 year player. You can't over estimate the value of an experienced point guard.

Alex Berger 7 years, 4 months ago

Interesting that Mason, barely a top 100 recruit, is getting playing time over Greene and Frankamp, top 30-35 recruits. Goes to show the ole ball coach knows what he is doing when he is offering scholarships.

Jack Wilson 7 years, 4 months ago

Really, it shows that a point guard -- a guy that can handle the ball -- fills a specific role, and has specific skills that trump overall talent. Just as Tharpe playing more minutes over Ellis last season doesn't mean Tharpe's a better player than Ellis.

I am as excited as anyone about Mason .. well, but for those that projected him to start over Tharpe. But that excitement over Mason appears well placed. The projections that Mason would start by some, I think, were as much about Mason as they were about a lack of faith in Tharpe. Maybe those projecting Mason to start can really appreciate Tharpe. Watch him, see what he brings.

And Alex .. I can't ever let this slide .. if Self offered 6 more highly ranked point guards that turned KU down, before Mason, would that change your opinion? This time the fallback looks great. Other times (Kaleb Tarczewski --> Landen Lucas), it isn't so immediately promising.

Kevin Huffman 7 years, 4 months ago

Hey, now - for all we know by the time L.Lucas is done he ends up getting drafted int he 1st or 2nd round and Tarc is already in the NBDL or overseas. A little early to be raggin' on Lucas.

Jack Wilson 7 years, 4 months ago

That's why I said "immediately promising" -- he's a developmental guy. We don't know the end product with Lucas. We do know that Self said that we can't redshirt Lucas since we did last season, implying what is obvious .. that he isn't likely to play much this season.

Jack Wilson 7 years, 4 months ago

Brett .. babyphog projected him to start by semester, Keegan projected him as a starter. Mainly I'm pointing out Keegan. babyphog didn't say immediately and though he kept misquoting me, his enthusiasm on Mason appears well placed.

You were unwilling to just say it definitively like babyphog .. but you were very clear in your thoughts on Tharpe in relation to Mason. You said if Tharpe was our PG this season, we were in trouble. You said that we had "zero ballhandling" last season (I quote that because it stood out to me). And you said that the likely scenario was that Mason or Frankamp would be running the point.

I had made the point that Self's talk about Mason was to inspire Tharpe. And I was dead sure Tharpe would be the starter. You said the position was wide open.

My projection was that Tharpe would start, and that the best ball handler -- Mason or CF would be the back up and would be in the rotation. Early I thought CF would likely be that guy. As it became clearer that CF didn't fit that bill, I projected Mason in the rotation. Consistently I have said that ball handling was the key.

Seeing Mason play with our guys, my opinion on Mason has skyrocketed.

What I'm curious about from you is if your distaste for Tharpe's game has softened, or if you think we're still in trouble? Do you really think we had "zero ballhandling" last season, or was that just a comment made too quickly?

Brett Glover 7 years, 4 months ago

The difference between Kirk and Elijah is a low-class nut shot.

Brett Glover 7 years, 4 months ago

That's why I don't like him. I lost all respect for the second he did that. In a jayhawk uniform. On national tv.

Bryce Landon 7 years, 4 months ago

No, the Michigan player flopped and made it look like a nut shot. Those scUM players were flopping all game long. The refs bought into their deception and called us for all kinds of ticky-tack crap while letting scUM get away with whatever they wanted. If the refs had called that game honestly, or if scUM had played like men instead of resorting to cheap tricks like flopping, that game never would have been close enough for EJ to piss it away at the end like he did.

Ethan Berger 7 years, 4 months ago

If EJ was a repeat offender then fine, but to my knowledge this was his first time (getting caught). I was furious with EJ but let's not call him low class. Let's move on and wish the best for a guy that hurt more then any of us after that game.

Daniel Reinigungsmittel 7 years, 4 months ago

I think I would have followed this article better in whatever language it was originally written. "Loud speed"? Really?

Erich Hartmann 7 years, 4 months ago

What a nice, civil discussion we have above...

Regarding Elijah Johnson, I'd put him on my KU team any day, but as a 2-guard, same as he was on the 2012 team that made the Championship game. He needed the right pieces around him to shine. Having Tyshawn + Thomas Robinson was exactly what EJ's personality needed on the court with him.

Regarding Elijah Johnson, what would IowaState fans say about him?

Regarding the "nut shot" by Elijah--> I think Self told him to "enforce"("set a stiff screen, even if you get a foul...") on McGary, just like Self may have told Kevin Young to "enforce" on Marcus Smart in Stillwater (remember that?). Its just that it wasnt EJ's personality, thus it looked way too un-naturally obvious...Bill Self was a veteran Big10 coach before he came to KU. EJ got caught following orders.

Erich Hartmann 7 years, 4 months ago

Good luck to Frank Mason, I feel good about getting him, especially after seeing him play and ball-handle. Hope he has a great year for us! Rock Chalk!

Bernard Gregory 7 years, 4 months ago

Once Frank gets comfortable with doing what Coach wants him to do, Wiggins will really make people think he is the next Lebron because its going to be that much easier for him and the rest of the team.I hope to see Frank and Tharpe on the floor at the same time in certain situations.

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