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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Keegan

Column: Frank Mason influencing game, improving

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) puts up a floater over Lafayette guard Nick Lindener (11) Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) puts up a floater over Lafayette guard Nick Lindener (11) Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Self talks starters, improvements from Oubre and Mickelson

Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self answers questions following his team's easy win over Lafayette. The coach discusses changes to two of the team's five starters for the game, as well as the standout performances of Kelly Oubre Jr. and Hunter Mickelson.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Oubre, Mason, Mickelson discuss KU's 27-point win

Kansas University basketball players Kelly Oubre Jr., Frank Mason III and Hunter Mickelson meet with media members after contributing to a blowout victory agains Lafayette on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse.

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KANSAS 96, LAFAYETTE 69

Box score

Kansas University’s basketball team is loaded with high skilled athletes, including four McDonald’s All-Americans, but even all that talent wouldn’t have much of a shot at jelling if not for the sophomore guard who originally committed to Towson and at the time of his choosing Kansas was ranked by Rivals 131st in his class.

On a day Kelly Oubre Jr. played his best game in college, Hunter Mickelson his best in a Kansas uniform and Jamari Traylor continued his upswing, sophomore point guard Frank Mason III again was the best player on the floor for either side.

Kansas, with all its depth, could absorb the loss of any other player. Mason goes down and nobody, as long as Devonté Graham is out with a severe big-toe injury, has a shot at bringing to the team what Mason does.

Mason’s remarkable leaping ability, strength and quickness were evident during his freshman season, but he played on the wild side. Now he controls games with an ever-improving blend of drives to the paint to dish and score, in-your-face defense, defensive rebounds snared above the rim in traffic, floaters and three-pointers that settle into the net with equal softness.

He has himself under control so well that he, more than anyone, is controlling the pace at which the game is played, and the direction the momentum arrow points.

He’s playing with feel. Combine feel with a superior athlete and it’s a beautiful thing to watch, especially when the gem adds a little more polish, sparkles a little brighter all the time.

The point guard, more than anybody, influences the statistics of teammates, so the most reflective stat of Mason’s play in Saturday’s game was a team total, the one that read 22 assists, five turnovers. Kansas shot 50 percent from the field, 52.2 percent from three, another pair of numbers on which Mason had a positive influence to varying degrees.

A fearless, 5-foot-11, 185-pound bundle of strength and quickness, explosiveness and flexibility, Mason isn’t even one-third into his college basketball career and he’s already this good.

Mason made 6 of 8 shots and 2 of 3 three-pointers in the 96-69 victory against Lafayette. He dished nine assists, had just one turnover, blocked a shot and picked up a steal.

“He was great,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “He was good not only because he made shots, but was also able to get the ball wherever he wanted to get it.”

Mason didn’t play much point guard before coming to Kansas, but he looked Saturday as if he were born to play it and had been doing it since birth. He’s even talking like a point guard now.

“I try to come out and start the game by getting my teammates involved and creating easy shots for them,” Mason said. “That’s what I’ve been doing the past few days in practice, getting them involved.”

Keep doing it.

Mason, who once scored 52 points in a high school game, is shooting so well opponents will need to stop losing sight of him on the perimeter or he’ll keep burning them. Mason leads the team with a .522 three-point shooting percentage. He shot ..327 from beyond the arc last season. His shot looks better and he’s taking better shots.

Any team wants its best free-throw shooter to be the guy who has the ball in his hands most often because he’s the one who will get fouled most in late-game situations when protecting a lead. Mason leads the team with an .879 free-throw percentage.

“I think he is getting better all the time,” Self said. “I thought he was terrific and totally controlled the game. When they made their run and we weren’t really playing well, the only reason the game wasn’t closer was because of Frank. Frank kept them at arm’s length.”

The best is yet to come from Mason.

“I wish he would get inside a little more,” Self said. “I think he can get inside the defense at will and I don’t think he does that nearly enough, but I think he is playing pretty smart on the offensive end.”

And because of the smart things he does, everybody on the floor with him looks smarter.


More news and notes from Kansas vs. Lafayette


By the Numbers: Kansas beats Lafayette, 96-69

By the Numbers: Kansas beats Lafayette, 96-69

Comments

Suzi Marshall 5 years, 1 month ago

Mason was spectacular today. If he keeps improving at this rate, he has a shot at being best Kansas point guard since JoJo White.

Bryce Landon 5 years, 1 month ago

I see KU was wearing the "Chalk" uniforms today. It looks like they've been slightly altered from last season. The numerals are more centered on this year's version; last year they were more to the right.

Also, remember how bent we all were about KU losing by 32 to UK? As it turns out, UK is just that good at making other storied programs look bad. Ask UCLA.

Dale Rogers 5 years, 1 month ago

And one big difference is when KU lost that badly to UK, UK had played something like 6 or 8 games already including their late Summer tournament plus had 16 more practices than KU, because of that tournament. KU had played just a couple of games. UCLA today, on the other hand, has played, what, 8 or 9 games and still lost that badly? On the other hand, losing to that UK team is going to happen to almost everyone they play.

Bryce Landon 5 years, 1 month ago

Not quite: The UK-UCLA game was played at the United Center in Chicago as part of a double-header with UNC-OSU

Danny Hernandez 5 years, 1 month ago

The best point guard at Kansas since JoJo? Whoa Nellie!

Greg Lux 5 years, 1 month ago

"Mason leads the team with an .879 free-throw percentage." WRONG. Brandon Greene leads the team with a 100% free-throw percentage.

Eliott Reeder 5 years, 1 month ago

WRONG. We don't have any current players named Brandon...

Greg Lux 5 years, 1 month ago

Not enough coffee ... lol Merry Christmas

Steve Kubler 5 years, 1 month ago

I don't believe Greene has taken enough yet for his stats to "count".

Micky Baker 5 years, 1 month ago

A few games back I mentioned that I think Mason is better than Sherron Collins. Those arguing against me said the statistics don't show that, but they do.

10.9 ppg 3.8 rpg 4.1 apg 1.4 spg 2.1 tpg 45.9% fgpc 87.9% ftpc 52.2% 3 point percent

These are all better than Sherron Collins as a sophomore except for tpg(turnovers per game). Collins had 2 tpg in his sophomore season. So far, Mason is better than Sherron. Agree? I mean, since the stats are supposed to mean something according to those that said something had tainted my memory.

Jeremy Wilhelm 5 years, 1 month ago

Just my assessment but Frank seems like he can be more of a pure point. Sherron was a "big moment, give me the ball" kind of guy but I don't think he led as well as Frank has the chance to. They share the fearless physicality and confidence and a scrappy tendency to make eye-popping defensive plays in the clutch... strips, steals, blocks, etc. at crucial late game moments.

Aaron Paisley 5 years, 1 month ago

Sherron played on a much better team as a sophomore and didn't have to have the numbers Mason is putting up this year. If Mason leads KU to the same end result that happened when Sherron was a sophomore, then the comparison can start.

Micky Baker 5 years, 1 month ago

Sherron didn't lead the team in 2008. Chalmers, Rush, Kahn, Robinson, Arthur, Jackson, etc. led KU in 2008. Sherron rarely played the point in 2008. It is harder to score more points as a point guard. Nice try though.

clint moran 5 years, 1 month ago

I'm not sure quite yet, Micky. I'll have to see what the numbers look like after the conference season is over. We've played a tough schedule for sure, but it's gonna get worse in league play, and it's not even debatable. Tcu, the doormat of big 12 basketball, is undefeated, and the entire league, top to bottom, appears to be much better than a year ago. If mason makes it through the gauntlet that is the big 12 without much decline in those numbers, I will agree with you 100%. Frank certainly has the potential to be better than sherron, he is the better athlete of the two. I'm just not ready to put the crown on him just yet. Very pleased with how well he's improving though.

Micky Baker 5 years, 1 month ago

I do agree about the Big 12 schedule except I don't think TCU being undefeated in non-con is that big of a deal with who they have played. There is another team or two that may not be that much better than they were a year ago. We also have a lot more room to improve, especially scoring in the paint. We've missed some easy shots close in and fixing that will probably add more assists for both Mason and Selden. Because of Mason's driving ability, the defense is going to have to rotate so that should give more opportunities for assists which will make it rather difficult to defend him.

On the defensive end of the ball, Mason has caused a lot of turnovers by stipping the ball, but other players are getting the steals because they come up with the ball. Mason is also a good rebounder for a point. In at least one game, he was in double digits for rebounds. He has a chance to do so much for this team and lead them to a deep run in the NCAA tourney.

Asad Zoberi 5 years, 1 month ago

Strength and conditioning wise Mason is definitely better than Collins. The guy plays hard on every possession and does not look tired. If he can drive and dish a little better he will be an awesome PG.

Josh Galler 5 years, 1 month ago

I wonder how different this team with Nadiir and no Graham? Would Connor would stay or would Svi signed?

clint moran 5 years, 1 month ago

No, Micky, lol, I wasn't trying to pretend that tcu is a world beater. Simply that the (potentially) weakest team in the conference is currently perfect regarding wins and losses. That's all. They've played nobody, but they did beat the mclemore led jayhawks when they were not as good as they are today, so anything can happen. Defense and rebounds, couldn't agree more. He is a nasty defender and will smother his man for 40 minutes if he doesn't take his usual 1 to 2 minute breather. I remember the 10 rebound game, he followed everyone's shots and at times I wondered if that was bills idea or his own. It's a gamble when your point goes hard to the basket for rebounds when he should be getting back on defense to prevent a runout. Masons incredible quickness probably allows him to do both. I really like mason, don't get me wrong. I watched Naadir last year vs staten, foster, smart, Taylor, and Kane while wondering "why can't kansas have a stud point guard like that?" I think bill has found a diamond in the rough with mason and I love it. Just a big sherron fan, is all. Mason leads us to 11 straight, and I'll admit he's better than sherron.

Micky Baker 5 years, 1 month ago

I believe TCU was undefeated in the non-con the year they beat us, but we just played terrible. I don't think Sherron was a bad player either. After all those guys I named left after the 2008 season, we didn't reach the championship game until 2012, the year after Sherron left.

Jonathan Allison 5 years, 1 month ago

Can't compare Sherron's sophomore year with Mason's.

Mason is a starting PG playing 35 mpg.

Sherron was mostly a SG off the bench, with the role of providing instant offense. He was a spark plug. His numbers don't translate to 35 mpg.

We will have a good comparison however of the two of them after we see what Mason does as a Jr and Sr. Mason will likely be more a of a combo guard with Graham playing the role of primary distributor. And Sherron and Tyshawn both played with split duties for much of Sherron's Jr and Sr years as well.

No matter the stats, Sherron is an all-timer at KU and deserves to be in the rafters. If Mason achieves the things that Sherron achieved, then we are one lucky fan base, because Self discovered the ultimate diamond in the rough.

Mick Allen 5 years, 1 month ago

I'm glad that Finally everyone has recognized that Mason has the opportunity and the requisite skill to be one of our better point guards. Some of us have been saying this for well over a year. Some on here, who posted so negatively about him ever being a contributor because of poor decision making, inability to hit a three, apparently have now seen what I saw last year against Duke. The kid is a tough gamer, who can get to the paint anytime he wants. He is a bulldog on defense, although he got beat off the dribble by little number 11 last game who was an exceptionally clever passer who ran his team extremely well. I would love to have him as a back up to Frank if Graham is done for the year. Apparently the naysayers forgot Frank was a freshman last year who had previously played the 2. I think you saw his previous 2 mindset some last year when he took the ball too deep off the bounce and got swatted. A scorer's mentality caused him to look to score instead of to look to distribute. I have always acknowledged that Frank on occasion would force the shot after getting in the paint. His decision making is better, he controls the tempo and pace of the game beautifully. To all those who thought him to not have the perimeter jumper, how does .522 from 3 look? If any of you read last year what Frank said about his 3 point struggles you would have know that he said he had to learn a jumper all over as he could get by in high school shooting a modified set shot. I don't recall Frank taking a "bad 3" all season. I recognize it is a long season and he will have some games where he will not play to the standard he has established so far this year. The Temple game tonight will be a truer test of how far he's come than the last game who were not as quick or athletic on defense as the Owls will be. Of course he will make some mistakes but generally those mistakes will occur when he is trying to make a play and not unforced turnovers. I have not seen his dribble stolen all year as he has very tight handles and can beat pressure with his speed and ability to use either hand. Most encouraging to me from the last game was his ability to hit a floater or runner and a pull up jumper instead of taking the ball too deep in the paint, as he still occasionally does. I know some of you have heard quite enough about Frank's ability from me, but I am so infrequently correct with my opinion I do have to beat my chest a bit in recognizing what type of skill set it takes to be a good point guard and recognizing that Frank has those ability. I promise I will not lecture on this subject again.

Jonathan Allison 5 years, 1 month ago

" I promise I will not lecture on this subject again."

I don't believe you! ;)

Mick Allen 5 years, 1 month ago

Not a diamond in the rough to some of us Jonathan.

Jonathan Allison 5 years, 1 month ago

I meant in going from being the 131st ranked player in his Sr class to potentially being worthy of having his jersey hung in the south rafters of AFH. I never heard anyone predict that when he was recruited in the summer of 2012. I certainly remember you touting Mason in the spring of 2013 and had Keegan on board by that summer after he'd started scrimmaging with his KU teammates.

I was skeptical right up until the Duke game.

Mick Allen 5 years, 1 month ago

Jonathan I saw Frank play for the first time in the summer of 2013, I never said he was a steal when we signed him. My point was many posters on this site saw him play in the fall of 2013 and the winter and spring 2014 and thought he was a wasted scholarship and would never be of any help. Did you think he was "a diamond in the rough" after watching him play in 2013 and 2014? I did. Your timeline is correct. I promise again to not "lecture", unless some one is not able to see the value this kid brings to the program. Thanks.

Rodney Crain 5 years, 1 month ago

Before I opened this article I said the over/under on Mick posts is 3 on this Mason article. It was a push. I have no issues with Mick touting who I beleive has been the MVP of our team so far this season. I worry we do not wear him down, but he has played more consistently at a higher level than anyone, Perry especially, this year. Tonight will be the next step for him.

Tom K. I think you should mention to the writer's going forward any future articles on Mason be referenced "Mick's Corner" He certainly has been in Franks since day one.

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