Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Bill Self enthused by Frank Mason’s defense vs. Bears

Oklahoma State forward Le'Bryan Nash loses the ball before Kansas defenders Frank Mason (0) and Wayne Selden on the final possession as time expires during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Oklahoma State forward Le'Bryan Nash loses the ball before Kansas defenders Frank Mason (0) and Wayne Selden on the final possession as time expires during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.


Frank Mason certainly gave Kansas University’s basketball team an offensive boost off the bench in Monday’s 78-68 victory over Baylor.

The 5-foot-11 freshman’s nine points off 4-of-5 shooting and six assists against one turnover helped the Jayhawks ultimately conquer the Bears’ zone defense. Yet it was the backup point guard’s ‘D’ that had Kansas coach Bill Self beaming in the wake of KU’s fifth conference victory in five tries.

“I thought Frank did an unbelievable job guarding Heslip. He didn’t score on Frank. He was able to make six threes on everybody else off our screwups,” Self said, referring to BU’s Brady Heslip, who scored 19 points off 6-of-9 three-point shooting in 31 minutes.

“Frank did a great job, or he (Heslip) could really have had a big game,” Self added on his weekly “Hawk Talk” radio show.

Mason asked Self if he could take a turn defensively on Heslip, who burned KU for four threes in four tries the first half. Heslip hit two of five threes the second half.

“That’s not something I’m used to seeing,” Mason said after the game, referring to a long-range bomber like Heslip. “I told coach I wanted to guard him ... (that) he wouldn’t get open shots on me. Any shot he made would be contested or a hard shot.”

That attitude showed during the times Mason did shadow the 6-foot-2 Heslip.

“Frank was way tuned up defensively,” Self said. “He refused to be screened. Some others run into a screen and do not get through it, do not compete. Those are losing plays. Frank only knows one speed, which is good. He’s a competitive guy.”

Mason has already had an eventful season.

“Stop and think about it ... he goes from playing great against Duke (15 points on Nov. 12) and basically played better than Naadir (Tharpe) and started (in Colorado and Florida losses, Dec. 7 and 10). Now he’s been our first perimeter guy off the bench. He has impacted the game,” Self said.

“When ‘Naa’ is playing well and others are playing well, he has not played as much. When he gets in there and I do play him, it seems to me it’s very positive in what he gives us because he’s a competitive little guy.”

Mason was involved in some big plays during the final seconds of KU’s 80-78 victory over Oklahoma State last Saturday in Allen Fieldhouse.

First, he missed the front end of a one-and-one free-throw situation with 23.1 seconds left and KU up, 79-75. OSU’s Phil Forte (23 points, 7-for-10 from three) drained a three at 5.7 seconds left to slice the gap to 79-78.

Fouled with 5.4 seconds remaining, Mason hit the front end of a one-and-one, then missed the second free throw, and KU led by just two, 80-78, with OSU charging down-court for a final shot.

Mason was able to get a hand on the ball as Le’Bryan Nash (10 points, 5-for-11 shooting) went up to shoot from long range. Nash was able to regroup and launch a shot that would not have counted had it dropped.

“As a freshman shooting those free throws at the end in the fieldhouse, even though we were home, I was very nervous,” Mason said. “Once I missed the second one, I knew I had to make a play. The guy I ended up on (Nash) wasn’t my man. Since it was under 10 seconds, we pretty much can guard anyone. I felt I needed to make a play to make up for those free throws.”

Thing is, if Mason had fouled Nash in the act of shooting, KU ultimately might have lost.

“I had confidence, but I wasn’t thinking at the time. After the game I was like, ‘Dang, I could have fouled him or hit his wrist,’” Mason said. “I made the play and was happy with the results.”

Self has been pleased with the progress of Mason, who played last year at Massanutten Military Academy in Woodstock, Va.

“Frank is the quickest, most athletic kid (on KU’s team),” Self said. “Wiggs’ (Andrew Wiggins) first step and second jump and everything is a different level. But when you talk about a guy who can get up and down the court or slide or keep a guy in front of him and still pressure, Frank is without question our most athletic kid.”

Self says Mason also has a great personality.

“If you’d poll our guys, they’d say Frank is the funniest guy on the team,” Self said. “Joel (Embiid, freshman center) is pretty funny, too. I’d give the nod to Frank.”

“The guys think I’m funny. They think I’m hilarious,” Mason said. “I think we are very close. The whole team, we do everything together. Even if it’s going out, we all like to move in a big group.”

The Jayhawks (14-4, 5-0) are undefeated in league play heading into Saturday’s 8 p.m. game at TCU because of hard work, Mason said.

“Our bodies are sore. We haven’t gotten that much rest (with five games in 12 days),” he said. “We do a couple practices a day (over break) and shootaround. We are always active.”

Wooden list: Wiggins has been named to the John R. Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 list, the Los Angles Athletic Club announced Wednesday. Players not chosen to the midseason list are still eligible for the final ballot. The Wooden Award All American Team, consisting of the country’s top 10 players, will be announced the week of the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight.

Draft talk: Self was asked on ESPN’s SVP and Russillo show Wednesday how the team is handling talk of Embiid and Wiggins likely being the top two players taken in the 2014 NBA Draft.

“We haven’t handled it at all. They don’t care,” Self said of the duo. “Everybody likes good thing to be said about them ... hey, Joel doesn’t care, and Andrew doesn’t, either. These are really nice, sweet kids, and they are happy when the other does well.

“I know it happened with Kentucky. They had a couple kids go 1 and 2 (Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist). I don’t think they were jealous of each other. I don’t think that would be a terrible thing to go 2. The whole thing is neither one of them might. Who knows if they are top five guys? There’s a lot of ball left, a lot of good players out there, good prospects. Just because people have said some things like that doesn’t mean it to be true.

“A lot of people say, ‘If they are going to go this high, it’s a foregone conclusion they are gone.’ These are things that have never been addressed with us. They are not talking like that. I know the talk was with Wiggs the whole time, but Joel ... trust me, we haven’t not talked to one person about that. He’s not in a hurry to talk about it. Their heads are right now. They have their heart in the right place.”


Len Shaffer 3 months ago

"Wiggins has been named to the John R. Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 list, the Los Angles Athletic Club announced Wednesday. Players not chosen to the midseason list are still eligible for the final ballot."

Not to nit pick, but if players not chosen are still eligible, what exactly is the point of announcing a top 25? Mind you, I'm not saying that it's wrong to reconsider players at the end of the year; in fact I think it has to be that way. It just seems kind of funny to "cut down" from the top 50 to the "final 25," when it's actually NOT the final 25. Kind of defeats the whole point of it, doesn't it?

BTW, how perfect is the name "The Bulldog" for Frank Mason? It fits him to a tee. I LOVE the way he attacks the rim!


Jack Wilson 3 months ago

A few thoughts:

-Mason I: It was pretty clear early in the year that his defense was superior to Tharpe's and that his effort defensively was there. Despite some criticisms of his defense here ... which I felt were misplaced at the time .. he showed that he was not just trying, but trying to the right things. And he did many things very well. He slid hard and quick. His tenacity stood out (which can be contrasted to Tharpe). He was "nose on the ball." I recognize that it is hard to judge defense. It is isn't a "I'm right, you're wrong" thing. Judging defense is many times subjective, based on what you're looking for, what is important to you, whether you forgive lapses, if you're more/less results oriented, etc. My judging him was based on those easier to see factors that lead to being a great defender. He's not a great defender yet, though. And that's also why I really like Brannen Greene as a potential excellent defender, as an example. It's nice to see that Self is publically recognizing Mason's work.

-Mason II: Frank Mason is a stud, and I'm glad my skepticism on him was just flat wrong. He is the perfect four year player. Mason is clearly (in my mind) a better point guard than Tharpe. I really think that we have a our point guard of the future in Mason. It is interesting, but the chatter was that Mason wasn't good against the zone. But we saw the result Monday. Mason is settling in, and getting more comfortable. He's playing more under control, it appears that he is trying to create for his teammates .. but very importantly, he is strategically attacking. He's just not lowering his head and going (contrast to the Florida game). It appears that he is learning that lesson perhaps 3 seasons quicker than Tyshawn Taylor did. I have no qualms in saying that Mason is our best point guard. To me, it's a no doubter.

-That being said, Tharpe's shooting is an absolute necessity on this team. At times, Tharpe is our best player. He's becoming a partial answer to our early season shooting issues. Very nice to have both of them. Tharpe has made a nice leap from last season as a confident, reliable scorer.

-On Lucas ... don't feel sorry for him. He is just a redshirt freshman. Unranked. We see the development, and he probably looks better than most have anticipated. Seems to me he might be in the mix his junior/senior season, if not next season. If Embiid leaves, Lucas may be the only guy that gives us true "center" look.

-Regarding Turner, guys, he isn't coming here unless Embiid and Ellis turn pro. No way he walks into a situation where he has a 50-50 chance of coming off the bench, competing with say Ellis and Alexander. Top 5 guys just don't do that. And the PF/C distinction is completely irrelevant. Self has regularly played two PFs, and started them (example Arthur and Jackson). Personally, I would write off Turner, not give it a single thought until you hear that Ellis and Embiid are both turning pro (and Ellis won't).


Timothy Rake 3 months ago

Mason is one of Bill Self's best little "finds" as an "underrated" top 100. He's gonna make a great point guard - already showing lots of maturity on both offense and defense.

AS for the best PG of all time at KU, I tend to agree with Jeremy - Jacques Vaughn. Fearless and sometimes spectacular without the Sherron Collins "out-of-control" moments.

BTW, on another subject, anybody following the blogs UNC? Anybody calling for Roy's head with such a mediocre start to ACC play?


Yolanda Gay 3 months ago

I feel sorry for Lucas. He redshirts and gets little to no playing time. Great hussle when he did play.

People are forgetting about Mickelson (sp?). I would think he'd be good having 1 year under his belt in practice (I think he can practice) going against Embiid, Traylor, Black. Sitting out a year seems to help kids adjust to college.


Paul Meyer 3 months ago

Is there a link to the panoramic shot from last Saturday's opening tip Allen Fieldhouse?


Scut Farkus 3 months ago

Who was guarding Heslip when he scored all those 3's? Tharpe? I thought Wiggins shut him down for most of the second half.


Tony Bandle 3 months ago

Next Season;

Back line - Naadir, Frank, Conner, Wayne [I think he stays].

Swing - Kelly, Brannen, AWIII [yes. he'll be here wearing a red shirt].

Front line - Cliff, Jamari, Landon, Perry, Hunter and Jo Jo [ just got a feeling he's gonna give it 2 years - probably just wishful thinking but what the heck!! ].

Not a bad roster, eh!!!


Yonatan Negash 3 months ago

2013 - 2014 NCAA Basketball National Champions

Kansas Jayhawks

There I said it.


Bernard Gregory 3 months ago

I am glad that Frank is getting the opportunity to showcase his talents and for all that worry about his size, he has been beating the odds a lot. I remember when everybody was worrying about his ranking and predicting he would red shirt and or transfer. This kid loves it at Kansas and I know that once he really gets it then we will really see something special because believe me the kid has the IT factor.


Suzi Marshall 3 months ago

I knew Self was going to comment about Mason's D, especially after a chance to review the tape. I'm surprised he didn't mention how good he looked on O, drawing the defense and dishing the dimes. Earlier in the season, exept Duke, he was trying to score over the bigs with terrible results. Because of Mason's emergence as a true PG, I doubt is Lyle ends up at Kansas where he'd have a tough time finding PT the next couple of years. OSU is making a run for Lyle and Turner.

I wish Tharpe and Mason had more size to them. Those little guys are always going to be playing uphill when we go against big elite guards. Lyle is a big guard and could hurt us at OSU, especially coupled with Turner.

I can't see Kansas in the running for Turner if Embiid returns. Turner would be like Lyle and find himself on the Kansas bench. I saw Turner play against Winslow's St. Johns and believe getting PT over Embiid, Alexander, Ellis, Traylor or for that matter possibly Lucas would be tough.

I watched Alexander on the HS Showcase (ESPNU). Alexander gives his all but has some serious work ahead of him. He looks to be in terrible shape, relative to elite D1. He gets winded, lacks the muscle definition of our guys, and does alot of standing around flat footed However, he runs the floor hard, goes for blocks, passes great off the block and through double and triple teams, and FINISHES with style.

I also watch Oubre play in the same showcase. He's a great athlete and has a nice stroke but he's all about left. I'm not sure he has a right anything because he never attempted showed it..


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