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Saturday, January 7, 2017

Keegan

Tom Keegan: A floater is the newest weapon in Mason’s repertoire

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) swoops around Texas Tech forward Matthew Temple (34) to pass during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) swoops around Texas Tech forward Matthew Temple (34) to pass during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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Quick-leaping, 6-foot-8 Texas Tech forward Zach Smith was in the midst of an impressive night in which he contributed 17 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots.

Smith smelled another blocked shot, but not even Fearless Frank Mason III would have the temerity to put up a shot with Smith’s long arms and 9-inch height advantage standing in his way, would he?

He would. He did. He scored.

Mason didn’t put it the extra time every day in the spring, summer, fall and winter working on his floater to amuse himself. He didn’t perfect the shot so that he could win H-O-R-S-E contests with an over-the-broom-with-you-standing on the chair trick shot.

Mason refined the shot to give himself one more way to score and one more means of messing with defenders’ heads.

Mason drove the left baseline and Smith was in perfect position to send the shot out of bounds, except that he couldn’t reach it. Mason had to send this particular floater especially high, so he did, putting just the right arc and touch on it that it came down through the net.

Mason’s shot went almost as high as his stock as a basketball player has soared this winter.

“Pro,” was the first word first-year Texas Tech coach Chris Beard used about Mason after watching him score 26 points to lead Kansas to an 85-68 victory against his Red Raiders in Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday night. “Great college player. Has gotten better every year.”

So much better that Mason’s name surfaces in national player of the year conversations, which usually start with discussions about Villanova senior Josh Hart.

“He’s grown from being a guy who we thought could impact our program and be a good player for us in time to, in my opinion, a guy who has an unbelievable chance to be a first-team All-American, so that shows you the growth,” Kansas coach Bill Self said of his point guard. “And I haven’t thought he’s played near as well of late as he was early, but I thought tonight was by far the best game he’s had in the past two or three weeks.”

Mason made 6-of-11 field goals, including 3-of-4 3-pointers and added five rebounds and four assists. He played 36 minutes, reaching the 35-minute mark for the 12th time in 15 games this season.

He managed to strengthen his body and soften his shot during a very productive offseason and is shooting .523 from 3-point range.

Mason has found a way to shoot all of his shots with just the right touch. He finishes at the rim by throwing it higher off the glass than most and has a great feel for which shot to pull out at any given moment.

The floater just might the prettiest shot in his arsenal.

“All summer, every day in practice, I always work on my floater and different runners, left hand, right hand,” Mason said. “I’m pretty comfortable with shooting it with my right hand or left hand and I still have a lot to work on.”

He’s averaging 19.9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 5.6 assists.

The effectiveness of the floater has made him realize it’s not always necessary to sting like a bee.

“I think I would dump it off to a teammate or get all the way to the basket (as a younger player),” Mason said. “Watching a lot of film over the years you have to change it up to not getting all the way to the basket and getting an offensive foul, and shoot a floater or a mid-range jumper.”

Self has always encouraged guards to shoot floaters. Mario Chalmers, for one, had a beauty.

“I think Frank’s really developed his floater over time,” Self said. “Devonte’ (Graham) last year shot a ton of floaters and he hasn’t shot quite as many this year. I think that’s a good shot, and when you’re 5-foot-11 or 10 or whatever Frank is, you’ve got to find some ways to get the ball over the big guys. That’s a shot people just started shooting in the last 20 years. There weren’t a lot of people shooting floaters, but he’s gotten good at it, and he’s good at it with his left hand as well.”

It’s a treat to watch a terrific athlete steadily improve for three years and then explode in his fourth, willing his way onto the radar of NBA scouts, even if he doesn’t quite fit the prototype.

Mason is one 3-pointer away from passing on the all-time Kansas scoring list the greatest basketball prototype to ever grace the earth. Mason has 1,431 career points. Wilt Chamberlain scored 1,433 in his two seasons at Kansas.

By the Numbers: Kansas 85, Texas Tech 68

By the Numbers: Kansas 85, Texas Tech 68

— See what people were saying about the game during KUsports.com's live coverage.


More news and notes from Kansas vs. Texas Tech


Comments

Len Shaffer 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Franks floater reminds me of Steph Curry, who's been using that shot to great advantage for many years ...

Steve Zimmerman 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Not to take away credits from Mason, but he only scored on 3 attempts off dribble (1 floater made, 1 missed), and 3 from downtown. The rest, errr... he got blocked, or lost the ball forcing himself against 2-3 TT guys. I don't argue his 3pt has been remarkable. His 4:3 ratio needs to be looked at carefully. WVU will chew us alive if our PGs are too slow orchestrating offense. It seems that way so far.

Bernard Gregory 5 months, 2 weeks ago

It appears that you always got something negative to say about Frank, what is it with you, 1 floater made 1 missed that is 50 percent. I want to see your post after the West Virginia game because I am confident that he will once again as always make you eat your words like he has been doing all year.

Steve Zimmerman 5 months, 2 weeks ago

I love Mason dearly, mr. Gregory. That's why I want him to always improve game after game. He's a terrific scorer, but he could be a more complete player, that's all.

Bernard Gregory 5 months, 2 weeks ago

I have to apologize again because of my bias toward Frank and I have to remember sometimes to be able to accept any criticism of him. He always talks about he can do things better and he is his strongest critic. Hopefully you will see my comments for what they are worth. I encourage you to continue to be critical of his shortcomings so that he will continue to strive to do better.

Brett McCabe 5 months, 2 weeks ago

One of my two favorite plays in the game. The replay showed just how great that floater was.

The other play? After Josh got beat on the inbounds play, within a possession or two, he steals a pass and heads downcourt. That's the mindset a player needs when they either make a mistake or get beat: don't get mad, get even.

RJ King 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Mine was when (I think) Graham lobbed to Lucas for a flush well into the 2nd half. The crowd and bench were juiced, but Lucas & Co. - without celebration - got back on defense immediately. They all had very serious looks on the faces, and I had to think this was the kind of defensive mindset Self was talking about.

Barry Weiss 5 months, 2 weeks ago

The "floater" is probably the toughest shot of all for a player to master. Props to Frank, he is an outstanding example of a great 4 year Jayhawk.

Mallory Briggans 5 months, 2 weeks ago

To put Frank Mason in the same company as Moses Malone as well as Wilt Chamberlain no one else can make that claim . Thats pretty impressive when you think about it.

I was curious about what the thoughts were on Frank his freshman year and I actually found KU sports archived on the internet . If you remember he was a spot starter because Tharpe had been suspended . Its amazing how many people posted their support for Frank back on November 6 2013 .

Barry Weiss 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Honestly, I recall shouting at the TV on more than one occasion when he would drive his freshman year....fearful he would get stuffed like a Thanksgiving day turkey. My daughter nicked named Frank "brick mason". Well, he certainly has had the last laugh on peeps like me that freaked out on him back then! The improvement he has made in his game from freshman year to this year is nothing short of phenomenal. I now refer to him as Frank "Curry"

Harlan Hobbs 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Frank is really the "glue" of this team. While Josh Jackson is clearly the most talented player overall on the team, it is obvious that Coach Self wants the ball in Frank's hands in crunch time, if for no other reason than he is normally an excellent foul shooter. Also, when the opposing teams take the KSU approach of not "letting Frank win the game" as Coach Weber said, he can be a great decoy for guys like Josh, Devonte, Svi, and probably LaGerald.

I love watching Frank, and to a great extent Devonte, manage a game. They are like having extra coaches on the floor. They demonstrate the great advantage of having talent and experience in the guard positions.

Len Shaffer 5 months, 2 weeks ago

I agree with everything you said, Harlan, with the exception of Frank being an excellent foul shooter. It SEEMS like he should be, but in reality he isn't. He's been pretty consistently around 71% for the last couple of years, and that's far from excellent. I do think he's better at the ends of close games, and despite his stats, I always feel confident when he goes to the line, but the truth is that he's never been great from the line.

Tom Keegan 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Frank Mason FT pct.: Freshman: .662; Sophomore: .786; Junior: .739; Senior: .753.

Gerry Butler 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Plus since Big 12 play started this year Frank is shooting 87.5% on top of the 75.3 that Tom mentioned overall so I have to say that's pretty dam good. - -21-24 in Big 12 play

Harlan Hobbs 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Thanks, Mr. Keegan, for the stats. I thought Frank's numbers were better than what has been portrayed. However, I wasn't aware of the specifics.

There is nobody that I would rather have at the line in a late game situation than Frank. He has won a number of games throughout his career with clutch foul shooting, and I would think his numbers are the best on the team, with the possible exception of Devonte Graham. I would be confident with either one of them at the line.

Mike Greer 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Right now the guy with the best record at the foul line is Vick at .867, but that's on just 15 attempts. Frank's .753 is on 97 attempts. The next highest in trips to the line is Jackson with 68 attempts but only .544%. At the end of a close game here's who I'd want on the floor based on foul shooting: Mason @ .753, Graham @ .769, Vick @ .867, Lucas @ .645, and Bragg @ .667. Frank's the top of my list because he's been there done that so many times, his blood runs cold when the pressure gets dilled up. If I were playing small, Jackson would go back in as my 4th guard, his FT numbers and those of Svi just aren't that far apart, and he has more upside on blocks and steels. As good as Jackson is all around, he needs to get his FT % up to at least the Bragg level.

Barry Weiss 5 months, 2 weeks ago

I'm surprised Lucas is sub 70%, he seems like he makes more.

Harlan Hobbs 5 months, 2 weeks ago

I agree, Barry. He was certainly solid last year when we needed him, and from my untrained eye, his mechanics look good.

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