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Sunday, January 4, 2015

Keegan

Column: Mason’s unique talents carrying Kansas

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) gets to the bucket past UNLV forward Goodluck Okonoboh (11) during the second half on Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) gets to the bucket past UNLV forward Goodluck Okonoboh (11) during the second half on Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Self: Outside shooting, aggressive takes in second half changed game

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self discusses his team's recovery from a four-point halftime deficit at home, against UNLV. Self says the Jayhawks' second-half shooting from three-point range (5-for-8) and aggressive takes to the rim changed the game in KU's favor.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Mason, Selden, Alexander on KU's late recovery vs. UNLV

Kansas basketball players Frank Mason III, Wayne Selden Jr. and Cliff Alexander discuss the Jayhawks' second-half recovery Sunday afternoon versus UNLV, which led to a 15-point KU win in the team's non-conference finale.

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KANSAS 76, UNLV 61

Box score

If trying to figure out how Kansas University’s sophomore point guard Frank Mason III manages to finish at the rim so accurately against players a foot taller, don’t feel bad. You’re not alone.

Maybe Wayne Selden Jr. has the answer.

“I don’t know,” Selden said. “I’m trying to figure it out so I can do it. He’s doing a great job with it.”

The point guard’s the guy whose responsibility it is to make teammates practice better, feel better about themselves and in turn play better in games.

Mason not only plays like that, he sound like it. Asked how he scores so well in big-man country, Mason threw credit to four teammates.

“That’s something I always work on in practice,” Mason said. “We’ve got Cliff (Alexander, Landen (Lucas), Perry (Ellis) and Jamari (Traylor), so I work on things like that during practice.”

Nice of Mason to praise them, because playing against them does make him better. But they don’t have anything to do with how he gets up so high, so quickly, contorts his body to shield the defender, and puts up soft shots off the right spot on the glass while all that other stuff is going on around him. That comes from natural physical gifts, basketball smarts and an insatiable desire to improve through working at it. Mason grades straight A’s in all those areas.

The only healthy scholarship point guard on the roster at the moment, Mason played through a sore shin that left him limping a couple of different times and delivered 18 points, seven assists, four rebounds and four steals in 38 minutes of a 76-61 victory against a young, talented UNLV team that had defeated Arizona and Temple.

“He’s the guy who makes that whole thing go,” Vegas coach Dave Rice said of Mason.

Of late, Mason has made Kansas go faster both as quarterback and receiver on the break. He starts breaks as well as he finishes them for a team better in transition than in the half court. Still, when defenses retreat sufficiently, Mason’s the main man in seeing that good shots are taken and he accomplishes that with the steady pressure he puts on the defense.

“He’s the guy who organizes and gets the ball where it needs to get to,” Rice said. “He was the guy who was first on our scouting report.”

When asked how unusual it is for a player Mason’s size to score against length, Rice launched into everything he admires about Mason’s game.

“I think that’s obviously why he was recruited to Kansas because he’s a fantastic player and he’ll be one of many in a long tradition of great guards at Kansas,” Rice said. “He is certainly somebody who can help them make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

“You don’t fully appreciate him until you watch him play a few times. He just always makes the right play, plays at a great pace. When his team needs a basket, he scores a basket. Most of the time, he’s the guy who makes the play, gets it to an inside player, or hurries it up on the break or gets a steal. He just makes all the right plays.”

Mason’s hard drives to the hoops resulted in Alexander being left alone on the baseline. Mason found him quickly, and Alexander cashed in first with a short jumper and then dribbled himself to a dunk, a pair of plays that helped Alexander’s confidence, which is coming along.

Mason’s play might surprise many, but he’s not among them.

“I always knew I was capable of playing this well, even though I still don’t think I’m playing to my full potential,” Mason said. “I’m trying to do what my teammates need me to do and what coach wants me to do.”

Trying and succeeding.

More news and notes from Kansas vs. UNLV


By the Numbers: Kansas beats UNLV, 76-61

By the Numbers: Kansas beats UNLV, 76-61

Comments

Bernard Gregory 5 years, 8 months ago

Just want to say to the non believers , I told you so. He hasn't showed nothing yet, but he getting there, ,remember I said that.

Luca Rossi 5 years, 8 months ago

Agreed, great game by Frank. Starting to see him get some nice assists for easy buckets to the big guys and his turnovers have been cut down. Only recall one bad turnover from him today. Theres no doubt this kid is our MVP this year.

Erich Hartmann 5 years, 8 months ago

I mean, seriously...Frank Mason is playing about as well as Sherron Collins, and I cannot think of a higher compliment than that. Man, just look at his stat line.

Also, see Frank play with a chip on his shoulder. The MickeyDs are learning that once you throw 4 of them out there together, it still isnt an automatic W. They have to go take it/earn it. Mason and Traylor are indispensible for what they bring to this squad, as it matures and develops.

Cody Riedy 5 years, 8 months ago

To get to Sherron's level - i.e. being able to reliably score against anybody and to be capable of averaging 16+ a game, Mason needs to work on two things: 1. Keep improving his outside shot and try to speed his release up. His percentage has been good this year, but he looks like he needs to load up to get his shot off. 2. Develop a pull-up jumper. If Mason can balance his downhill attack, especially in transition, with occasional pull up jumpers from the free throw line area and continue to develop a three-ball, then even when he's playing against a lot of height he'll be able to score and help keep the defense from just sagging into the paint.

Micky Baker 5 years, 8 months ago

Mason's numbers in his sophomore year are better than Collins' sophomore year numbers. Frank is better athlete than Collins was too. As long as Mason stays healthy this year, he's going to solidify a spot as an All-American.

Erich Hartmann 5 years, 8 months ago

Great fact for any PG, Cody. It should be noted that Mason is shooting over 50% from 3 for the season(!). That's about as good as it gets. Hey, whatever mechanics Mason adjusted over the summer, IT WORKED. And honestly, his 3s are not getting blocked. Actual game footage data would say that Frank Mason already has one of the best 3pt shots in Div.1 right now. It aint broke, and its a bit incredulous to suggest a 50+% 3gun needs fixing.

I agree with the mid-range pullup J needing to be in his repertoire, but I've seen him do that curl-around-a-screen and bury those mid range jumpers also. Frank Mason has a complete game. Other coaches have recognized it: Coach Rice of UNLV said Mason was #1 on their scouting report. Which then makes his performance even that much more remarkable: they were gunning for him, yet he still got 'em.

Perception vs. what is actually on game film.

Bernard Gregory 5 years, 8 months ago

Frank good enough in high school to have been a Mickey D but that's how politics go . That's why I know the best is yet to come. The more comfortable he gets the better he will become.

Bernard Gregory 5 years, 8 months ago

He needs to keep doing what he is doing that's why he lead the State of Virginia in scoring because he stopped relying on outside shooting and getting to the basket.He can average 16 without having to shoot pull up jumpers and he can take all the time he needs to shoot the 3 being that he shoots it because he is open.Thanks for the advice though but if he took your advice he would be averaging 40.i don't think that what coach want.

Michael Sillman 5 years, 8 months ago

I really love the play of Mason but Self needs to follow through on his promise to find a way to rest him. His only plan so far for covering the absence of Graham is to play Mason the whole game.

Mason cannot play 38 to 40 minutes per game all of the way through the conference schedule. It will increase the chances of an injury and wear him out before March.

Self needs to bite the bullet and limit Mason to 30 minutes per game. Selden, Mikhaliuk, or Manning need to be put in the point for 5 minutes per half.

Chris Shaw 5 years, 8 months ago

Cody,

First rule of being a shooter. Don't "$&!@" with your shot in the middle of the season especially when you are shooting over 51 percent from 3 point range.

Oubre stepping up his game and selden knocking down some shots has taken the pressure off of Mason. More so Oubre stepping up his game. I am still not convinced selden's game is consistent enough. He's literally a 6'5 225 lb spot up 3 point shooter.

The only thing Mason needs is either 1) take that short jumper in the paint like you alluded to 2) keep his dribble in the thick of the trees so he canals better decisions. He got bailed out a couple of times when he left his feet.

As rice said, Mason is gonna be the #1 guy on opposing teams scouting report so his decision making along with "help" from Oubre, selden and greene is gonna be key. Mason can't do it by himself.

Cody Riedy 5 years, 8 months ago

Yeah, I agree, he doesn't need to be working on his shot like that during the season; I'm talking more long-term progress. My point is really just that if he is really going to reach Sherron Collins (junior year 19 pg 5 asst), i.e. being able to lead by being a scorer and being able to score no matter how his other teammates are playing (and I'm not saying he should do this), he's going to have to develop more of his offensive game. Right now, as much as I love Mason's game, if other guys aren't making shots and a defense schemes to keep Mason out of the lane, Mason could be shut out whereas, and perhaps I'm exaggerating through memory, Sherron could create scoring no matter what because he could score in multiple ways.

Erich Hartmann 5 years, 8 months ago

Man. Good concerns, Cody, but I just havent seen Mason get "shut down", other than vs. Kentucky, where nothing anybody tried worked. We must remember that most of the setting the tone for a particular opponent comes straight from Bill Self, and his main soldier is the PG. So know that whatever you see in most KU games, is Frank pushing whatever pace Self is directly telling him to. What makes it easier on Self is when a PG can read the situation in live action, or get the game "feel" and start enforcing KU's philosophy on-the-fly. That's the level of play that Self expects to develop, and it takes at least a year or two for every PG/lead guard he's had at KU. From Russell Robinson, all the way to Mason (&Graham soon).

Fred Davis 5 years, 8 months ago

I've never seen a KU basketball player improve so rapidly during the course of a season like Frank Mason has....

He's by far the most important player on the KU basketball team and that importance grows with each performance, especially when he puts on clinics like he did Sunday against UNLV. He's the epitome of a Bill Self point guard, tough, savvy and a true floor general.... I know the popular sentiment is to compare him to Sherron, but I would argue he's more Mario Chalmers than he is Sherron Collins.... Sherron was tough, but Sherron was just as prone to make a bonehead mistake as he was to make a highlight, To this day, I still think Mario Chalmers has been the best Bill Self PG in regards to doing what Bill wants out of his PG - Play Great D and control the offense, which is precisely what Mason does...

It was encouraging to see Cliff Alexander finally break out, and Kelly Oubre continues to develop into the player many thought he would become... If KU is going to win an 11th straight Big 12, it's going to come down to Mason staying healthy, Devonte Graham getting healthy, and the Bigs. As good as they looked yesterday, there were still a number of points left on the floor from close range. That can get cleaned up. But I'm still of the opinion Self needs to grab another Big Man coach for next season, but that's a discussion for another day. Either way, great win for KU heading into conference play....

Rock Chalk.

Erich Hartmann 5 years, 8 months ago

Fred, I do agree that Mason makes a lot fewer mistakes than he did his frosh season. But he was actually serviceable as a frosh PG. Mario Chalmers failed as a KU PG, and Self never played him in that role, other than a few possessions. The main KU PG of the Chalmers era was Russell Robinson. Russell Robinson set the standard for Bill Self PG's at KU. He is most revered in that role. To quote Roy Williams prior to the 2008 Final4: "Russell Robinson is the most important 7ppg in college basketball..." Russell Robinson is the PG that created 4 guys in double-figures almost every time the 08Champs played.

Mario Chalmers, from the middle of his frosh season --> until they won the NC, was the SG or 2guard. Yes, he did bring the ball up on occasion, but his main job was to score.

Fred Davis 5 years, 8 months ago

Failed as a KU PG..? I guess we didn't watch the same Mario Chalmers at KU. Sure, he played some two-guard in Self's system, which is a trademark of what Self likes to do, have multiple ball-handlers on the floor at once. But to say he failed at PG during his KU career is absurd. He was the second-leading assist man as a freshman and sophomore, behind yes, Russell Robinson, and then led the team in assists his junior year, so suffice to say, it was more than a just a 'couple possessions' he brought the ball up. Robinson was a good KU point guard, but he couldn't shoot. Mario, on the other hand, could shoot, handle the rock, pass and he was a lockdown defender - all trademarks of a great point guard. Oh, and strangely enough, he was drafted into the NBA as a PG. So ideally, give me Frank Mason as another Mario Chalmers any day.

Allison Steen 5 years, 8 months ago

Its like Bill Self actually knows what he is doing and knew it when bringing in Mason :) (ahem, haters) I've been impressed with him since the minute he stepped on the court his freshman year, my awe has reached new heights.

Have faith and try to enjoy the process. We aren't going to be perfect, but our team is improving, Self knows what he is doing, and the "this is the worst team we've had in 25 years" fans need to go away.

Chris Shaw 5 years, 8 months ago

Cody, I don't want Mason having junior sherron numbers. Him carrying the team that year was out of necessity. And... He almost damn near did it had it not been the final 2 min collapse against mich state in sweet 16.

Mason possesses sherron qualities which is fantastic but if we're being realistic, Mason needs a solid backcourt mate. If Oubre stays and ku can find anybody to replace selden and bring selden off the bench watch out.

Look at Duke and coach k. He brings in justice Winslow and Tyus jones and he gets Quinn Cook, Rasheed Saulimon, and matt jones to buy into their new roles as upper class men in their backcourt.

Steve Corder 5 years, 8 months ago

And why is Seldon out of here after this year?

Chris Shaw 5 years, 8 months ago

A lot of people try to compare Mason to sherron but I see more Adonis Jordan in Mason.

The only problem is that jordan had downtown terry brown and Rex walters as backcourt mates that were absolutely lethal from behind the arc.

Adonis was such a great passer and Mason needs to work on that but it's uncanny the "timeliness" of masons shots. Jordan was was always known for hitting a big a shot or making a great decision when his team was on the ropes. I guess that's why Jordan went to two different final 4's with two different backcourt mates.

I think of Mason would go back and look at how Adonis Jordan managed a game...he would pick up some things from a distribution and passing aspect. Mason is already a pit bull and I love it. He's getting better and better and it's great to see.

Dirk Medema 5 years, 8 months ago

Ahhhh, going old school with the comparisons. Too many have no idea what Adonis' game was like, much less who he played with. Great comparison, since they have more similar physiques as well. (Those guys also killed it from the FT line as well, which has been real nice from Frank and most of the team this year as well.)

Having KO find the court and his shot will go a long ways to making Mason a better PG, and hopefully we can cobble together a 2 from the Selden/Svi/Brannen, as well as 3 minutes.

Chris Shaw 5 years, 8 months ago

Dirk, Looks like svi is at least a year away. Another year in the program will do him some good. I honestly don't see selden as KU's future 2 guard. I didn't get it all last season and I don't get it this season.

As far as greene, it's just irritating he can't find consistency to get in the rotation. You see the potential but it's just not I guess what self is looking for. I hope Oubre decides to stay to polish and hone his skills for one more year.

Chris Shaw 5 years, 8 months ago

Steve,

Selden isn't leaving. Are you crazy? He would be replaced and brought off the bench.

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