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.


Bernard Gregory 5 months, 1 week 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.


Erich Hartmann 5 months, 1 week 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!


Erich Hartmann 5 months, 1 week 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.


Daniel Reinigungsmittel 5 months, 1 week ago

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


Brett Glover 5 months, 1 week 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.


Brett Glover 5 months, 1 week ago

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


Alex Berger 5 months, 1 week 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.


Brett McCabe 5 months, 1 week ago

Wow, it's easy to get excited about Frank's play and potential and I'm looking forward to watching him run the show tonight. Love the confidence from a young point-guard. I'm anticipating a hug step up from the entire team in terms of intensity, defensive play, running the court, etc. Frank will definitely set the tone.


Steve Kubler 5 months, 1 week 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)


Andrew Cox 5 months, 1 week ago

Massanutten is in Woodstock, VA not Bethesda, MD


Evan Bilyeu 5 months, 1 week ago

Sooo is google paying you to make these comments??


Doug Cramer 5 months, 1 week 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.


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