Josh Jackson hopes young Suns core can develop way Warriors once did

Kansas' Josh Jackson, right, hugs friends and relatives after being selected by the Phoenix Suns as the fourth pick overall during the NBA basketball draft, Thursday, June 22, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Kansas' Josh Jackson, right, hugs friends and relatives after being selected by the Phoenix Suns as the fourth pick overall during the NBA basketball draft, Thursday, June 22, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Some incoming rookies might have looked at the Phoenix Suns’ 24-58 record — last in the NBA’s Western Conference this past season — and began concocting ways to avoid getting drafted by an organization in the early stages of a rebuilding project.

Josh Jackson did the opposite.

The one-and-done wing out of Kansas and his management team instead sought out the desert as a destination.

“It’s definitely a place I’ve thought about being ever since the draft lottery,” Jackson said at his introductory press conference in Phoenix, after the Suns stole the multi-talented, 6-foot-8 wing at No. 4 in the 2017 draft. “I look at the team and I just really get excited. This team has so much promise and I think I fit in pretty well, so I’m more than happy to be here, and I can’t wait to see what we can do this year.”

The Suns have won less than 30 percent of their games in each of the previous two seasons. So what does Jackson envision that others don’t?

“I thought that one of the most special things about this team is the youth that we have,” he said, adding that the young core he is joining — which includes Devin Booker (20 years old), Marquese Chriss (19), Dragan Bender (19), T.J. Warren (23) and Eric Bledsoe (27) — would be able to grow together.

The Phoenix roster, as comprised entering the summer, doesn’t exactly scream playoff contender. And although Jackson didn’t make any claims about what the team could accomplish in his rookie season, it was clear that his fascination with joining the Suns had more to do with the longterm.

“I remember watching Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green when they were all young, and they didn’t seem to click as well” Jackson said, referring to three eventual stars drafted between 2009 and 2013 by the Golden State Warriors, winners of two of the last three NBA championships. “But as time went on and they got older they just had the best team chemistry. And now look at them.”

The hope in Phoenix is that Booker, Jackson and either one, or both, of their young power forwards from the 2016 draft — Chriss and Bender — and/or a to-be-determined 2018 lottery pick (spoiler alert: the Suns aren’t making the playoffs next season) will form a combination capable of developing into a stellar team in the future.

“When coach (Earl Watson) came and visited me and watched us work out that was one of his key points, just being able to give the young guys opportunity,” Jackson said. “He knows we’re not perfect, we’re gonna come out and mess up. But we have to have that opportunity to be able to come out and make mistakes so we can learn from them and get better.”

Suns general manager Ryan McDonough, who no doubt also preached that opportunity concept to Jackson ahead of the draft, didn’t back off the Golden State ideal model referenced by Jackson. McDonough said he and his team studied how the Warriors and Oklahoma City turned around their franchises through the draft.

“It starts with the caliber of the player, in terms of the talent, in terms of their approach. Most teams with young players don’t win a lot of games — we get that part of it,” McDonough said. “But if the guys work hard, grow together and grow on the same timeline you can turn it pretty quickly and takeoff pretty quickly.”

No one looks at the current Phoenix core and sees a Curry-Green-Thompson trio or Kevin Durant/Russell Westbrook/James Harden-type combo in the making. At least not yet. If Phoenix adds a top-three pick in a year or finds a way to trade for another up-and-coming talent this summer, it could be on its way to the kind of drastic turnaround Jackson envisions.

It might not work out that way, but Jackson will do everything within his power to restore the hopes of a franchise that has missed the playoffs seven consecutive years — and counting.

None by Phoenix Suns


Frank Mason III tough enough to fight through culture shock that awaits in Sacramento

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) raises up the Sprint Center crowd during the first half, Thursday, March 23, 2017.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) raises up the Sprint Center crowd during the first half, Thursday, March 23, 2017. by Nick Krug

On an extensive list of ways his life is about to change now that he has reached the NBA, adjusting to a steady diet of losses has to rank near the top for former Kansas point guard Frank Mason III.

During the reigning National Player of the Year’s four seasons at KU, Mason played for Bill Self-coached teams that averaged 29 victories and 7.3 losses.

His role in those wins propelled the 5-foot-11 Mason to near the top of the second round in this year’s NBA Draft, where Sacramento made him the 34th overall pick. The ultra-competitive Petersburg, Va., native, no doubt, will make the best of it, but winning roughly 30 games a year will continue to be the norm for him in the years ahead.

Playing an 82-game schedule, the Kings have won no more than 38 games in any of the previous 11 seasons — a stretch in which they have lost 50 or more games six times (and 49 twice).

While Sacramento’s front office and coaches obviously were thrilled with their four 2017 blueblood-only draft picks — Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox, North Carolina’s Justin Jackson, Duke’s Harry Giles and Jayhawk Mason — they also were realistic about the state of the franchise at the introductory press conference for the newest Kings.

Head coach Dave Joerger said when he looks at the roster he thinks about how the team will be set up three years from now and how he plans to have the 2017-18 team lay a foundation for the future.

“We’ve got good people and we’ve got good talent to build from,” Joerger said.

Even so, no one expects Sacramento to contend for a playoff berth anytime soon. The Kings very well may end up the worst team in the NBA next season, and that’s because they will most likely be the youngest. As a 23-year-old rookie, Mason is older than six players that project as part of the team’s rotation.

The contracts of veterans Rudy Gay, Tyreke Evans, Darren Collison, Ty Lawson and Ben McLemore officially come off the books when free agency begins this weekend, and it appears the organization, which recently waived 31-year-old Arron Afflalo, is prepared to rebuild around its latest lottery pick, Fox (19 years old). What does the explosive incoming rookie from Kentucky have around him? Fellow newbies Jackson (22), Giles (19) and Mason (23) — and possibly Serbian guard Bogdan Bogdanovic (24) — along with slightly more established second-year players Buddy Hield (23), Malachi Richardson (21), Skal Labissiere (21) and Georgios Papagiannis (19). And don’t forget old head Willie Cauley-Stein (23), grandpa Kosta Koufos (28) and great-grandpa Garrett Temple (31).

All of the challenging seasons ahead for Mason at least should be more tolerable with the knowledge he landed on a team that values him. Sacramento had Mason visit for two pre-draft workouts.

“I think when I first got here for my first workout I was pretty good — could’ve done a lot of things a lot better — but obviously they were impressed by me,” Mason said at the rookies’ introduction. “We got that call that they wanted me to come back for a second workout, I was really excited about that. I came back for the second workout, wasn’t my best again, but, you know, I think I was solid and they were excited about me. And now I’m here.”

Joerger pointed out Mason also showed off his explosiveness after workout No. 2, with “a tremendous dunking show.”

None by Sean Cunningham

Mason’s new head coach, though, cares much more about what his players do during games. Joerger developed a reputation as a coach who values toughness during his three seasons in Memphis, prior to taking over at Sacramento a year ago.

“I love a coach that’s going to help us get after it, challenge us every day mentally and physically,” Mason told The Sacramento Bee’s Jason Jones. “I’m just excited about the future.”

The future will feel a lot more real once the season begins four months from now. And it won’t be like anything Mason has experienced previously on a basketball court.

Admitted Joerger: “We’re gonna take our lumps, you know what I mean? So let’s do it with guys who have great work ethic and high character and the talent that’ll come out as they grow into it.”

Some serious culture shock awaits Mason in the NBA. But if we know anything about him, it’s that he’s gutsy enough to fight through it and will do his best to help revitalize the Kings, who haven’t finished with a winning record or reached the playoffs since 2006.

Reply 2 comments from Bob Hiller Ryan Zimmerman

Josh Jackson addresses anger management class taken as part of diversion agreement

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) protests a foul called against him after he thought he was pushed into the scorers table during the second half on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) protests a foul called against him after he thought he was pushed into the scorers table during the second half on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla. by Nick Krug

Leading up to next week’s NBA Draft, many have scrutinized the merits of Josh Jackson’s basketball skills and debated just how high those attributes should carry him up the big board of a loaded rookie class.

The defense, passing and athleticism Jackson displayed during his one season at Kansas make him worthy of a top pick, but every time someone takes a deep dive into his draftability, his off-the-court stumbles from his time in Lawrence come up, too.

As the Journal-World reported in May, the 20-year-old prospect reached a diversion agreement in a case of criminal damage to property, which included writing a letter of apology and anger management classes.

Fielding questions from the media for the first time since then earlier this week in Los Angeles, following his second pre-draft workout with the Lakers, Jackson didn’t mind addressing those mandated classes when a reporter asked him about the matter.

“There is some truth to that. I have been taking an anger management course,” Jackson said. “I’m just about wrapping it up right now. It was just something I had to do and I learned from the mistake that I made. I’m making it through it.”

The 6-foot-8 wing, who could end up playing in L.A. if the Lakers decide to take him with the No. 2 overall pick, said he had learned from the experience.

“One of the biggest things I got out of it was just to worry about the things that I can control and not to worry about the things that I can’t,” said Jackson, who never bristled at any topic thrown at him by media during his brief time with the Jayhawks. “It sounds so simple, but I went home and I thought about that a lot. It made a huge amount of sense to me, because there’s a lot of things in this world that we can’t control, yet frustrate us. But you just can’t worry about them too much.”

Jackson, no doubt, has answered questions on the matter every time he has spoken with an NBA decision-maker over the past couple of months. And franchises all have ways of performing in-depth background checks on incoming rookies, especially those who could soon become the young face of the team. Owners and management don’t want to invest their money or the organization’s future in a person who will bring them unnecessary headaches.

It doesn’t appear teams are too worried about Jackson the human being, despite his mistakes. If they were, you would hear predraft reports of his stock dropping and teams leaning toward staying away from him.

With a week to go before the big night in Brooklyn, if anything, Jackson is trending upward, challenging UCLA’s Lonzo Ball for the No. 2 spot. The way he handled the questions regarding the anger management class that accompanied his diversion is a sign he’s addressing his maturity, as well as his game, which will only impress the NBA teams that are paying very close attention.


Lakers get Josh Jackson out of ‘comfort zone’ with 2nd pre-draft workout

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) elevates for a dunk against West Virginia during the second half, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017 at WVU Coliseum.

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) elevates for a dunk against West Virginia during the second half, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017 at WVU Coliseum. by Nick Krug

It turns out the Josh Jackson to Los Angeles buzz was just starting to hum when the one-and-done Kansas standout canceled a workout with Boston the week before the NBA Draft. Less than 24 hours later, Jackson showed up Tuesday at the Lakers’ practice facility for an examination with the Celtics’ historical rival.

A possible draft target for L.A., which owns the No. 2 pick, Jackson told media following the session he was excited about working out for the Lakers for the second time in a six-day span.

“I was all for it. Of course, I’m not gonna tell them no,” Jackson said. “It was just an honor to be here today. I just want to thank the whole organization for having me.”

The 20-year-old wing who displayed his versatility on both ends of the court throughout his lone season with the Jayhawks met with and played in front of Lakers legend and president of basketball operations Magic Johnson, head coach Luke Walton and other members of the organization the previous week, too. That was in Sacramento, with Jackson’s trainer, and more on his terms.

“But today I kind of got out of my comfort zone a little bit working out with their training staff,” Jackson said. “I thought both went pretty good.”

In the mind of the 6-foot-8 prospect from Detroit, he felt in better shape for workout No. 2, and his objective for the on-court job interview was to provide proof that he’s addressed some of his perceived weaknesses as a player, such as 3-point shooting and ball-handling.

“A lot of things people know I can do. I’m athletic, long, lanky,” the 203-pound athlete with a 6-9 3/4 wingspan said, “but I’m just trying to show that I’ve improved since the end of the season at Kansas.”

From the moment the Lakers secured the No. 2 pick via the draft lottery, many assumed the organization would select UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball in that spot — right after the Celtics presumably take Washington guard Markelle Fultz at No. 1. But given the Lakers’ interest in meeting with Jackson a second time (they reportedly are trying to do the same with Ball), the incoming rookie was asked whether his chances of playing for L.A. seem to be improving.

“It was definitely more of a ‘come in, try to impress them.’ And hopefully I impressed them enough,” Jackson replied. “But they can’t look past any guy in this draft because we’re all really, really talented, and I think we all bring a lot to the table.”

Fultz, Jackson, Ball and Kentucky point guard De’Aaron Fox, who worked out for the Lakers before Jackson on Tuesday, all seem to be coveted talents. The rumors and conjecture surrounding who ends up where only will ramp up between now and the June 22 draft.

Reply 6 comments from Tim Orel Barry Weiss Gary McCullough Andy Godwin Jim Stauffer John Myers

What to make of Josh Jackson canceling pre-draft workout with Boston

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) comes away with a  rebound during the first half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) comes away with a rebound during the first half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York. by Nick Krug

While the two best teams in the NBA clashed in The Finals Monday night, news of one top incoming rookie canceling a pre-draft workout with a preeminent franchise sneaked out.

ESPN’s Jeff Goodman came through with the surprising scoop: One-and-done Kansas wing Josh Jackson scrapped a workout with the Boston Celtics, who own the No. 1 overall pick in next week’s NBA Draft.

This past Thursday, Jackson met with and played in front of the Los Angeles Lakers, who will pick No. 2. So why would he decide against displaying his skills for the Celtics?

It’s not as if Jackson is in Lonzo Ball’s overpriced Big Baller Brand shoes, with his father appearing on every sports-based argument show that will have him, claiming the Lakers are the best fit.

Jackson is fierce on the court, and you know he would take great pride in being selected first overall. So obviously there are other factors at play.

Perhaps Jackson’s management has advised him against a session with Boston because Washington’s Markelle Fultz has emerged as a lock for the No. 1 spot. Or maybe, as many have speculated since Goodman reported the cancellation, a team (conceivably the Lakers) already has made a promise to Jackson that it will draft him.

Who knows? The only conclusion we can really draw from this is there’s little chance of Jackson ending up with the Celtics, unless the team trades down in the draft, with Jackson becoming a piece of a more enticing collection of assets than Fultz alone.

Now it seems — barring some as of yet unforeseen trade, of course — Jackson is bound for either the Lakers at No. 2 or Philadelphia at No. 3. Neither would be a bad place to start for the 20-year-old talent from Detroit. Both the Lakers and Sixers have struggled the past few years. But the NBA’s structure sets such organizations up with high lottery odds, enabling them to stockpile young, talented players.

As a Laker or Sixer, Jackson would join a core built for the future, and that’s certainly not a bad thing, considering Golden State and Cleveland seem bound to meet in The Finals as long as LeBron James plays for the Cavaliers and Kevin Durant and Steph Curry are Warriors.

Maybe three years from now, LeBron finally shows some rust, just as the Sixers are on the come up with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Jackson leading the way.

Or, possibly, the Lakers really do prefer Jackson to Ball, L.A. gets Paul George next year and the purple and gold are back to their yearly playoff runs sooner than everybody thought.

Either way, Jackson will be just fine — even if he doesn’t get to join a Celtics organization much closer to contending for a title.

Reply 9 comments from Gavin Fritton Tracey Graham Jayhawkmarshall Ryan Zimmerman Creg Bohrer Brian Steward Josh Galler Phil Leister

5-star KU football commit Devonta Jason: ‘I’m just going to be me’

Kansas University football recruiting

Kansas University football recruiting

The first five-star prospect to ever commit to the University of Kansas football program, New Orleans prep receiver Devonta Jason has heard the murmurs and seen the skepticism floating around the recruiting world in response to the non-binding pledge he made back in February.

That much was clear in Jason’s comments to Bleacher Report, for a feature titled: Do You Believe 5-star WR Devonta Jason is Kansas-bound? LSU and Alabama don’t.

"People were asking me if they gave me something," Jason told Bleacher Report’s Adam Kramer. "Everybody was going crazy. They wanted to know what I was thinking. I'm just going to be me."

A 6-foot-3 rising senior at New Orleans’ Landry-Walker High, Jason, of course, is the marquee prospect in third-year KU head coach David Beaty’s Louisiana-heavy 2018 recruiting class. Rivals ranks Jason as the 22nd-best player in the country, and considering KU’s current seven-year streak of winning three games or fewer, many outsiders scratch their heads or scoff at the idea of Jason officially signing with the Jayhawks months from now.

According to Jason, a coach from another program texted him “really?” upon hearing of his verbal commitment to Beaty, associate head coach and Louisiana native Tony Hull and Kansas.

"It really didn't get to me," Jason told Bleacher Report. "I know they went 2-10 and 0-12 the year before. It's really not about what school you go to or being a big fish in a big pond. It's about your future and making an impact on your life. It's about being known and recognized."

Given that most prospects of Jason’s caliber typically sign with the likes of Alabama, Florida State, Clemson, Ohio State or some other renowned program, Rivals’ national recruiting director Mike Farrell characterized Jason as a “unicorn.”

Farrell explained: “I’ve never seen one in person, and I don't know if they exist. If this sticks, it will prove that they do."

Hull, who also helped lure commitments from Jason’s current Landry-Walker teammates, four-star cornerback Corione Harris and three-star defensive end Josh Smith, as well as former L-W standout Mike Lee, gets credit for making this unique recruiting situation possible. Jason said he connected with Hull when he visited Lawrence.

“Being as far away as I was,” he told Bleacher Report, “it still felt like home.”

As Jason had stated previously, he intends to graduate from Landry-Walker early and enroll in college for the spring semester of 2018, ahead of his freshman year of college football.

Read the full feature on Devonta Jason at Bleacher Report

Reply 5 comments from Nigel Dunham Chris DeWeese John Smith Dale Rogers Jmfitz85

In search of answer at backup point guard, Wizards should look to Frank Mason

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) drives against Duke guard Frank Jackson (15) during the second half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) drives against Duke guard Frank Jackson (15) during the second half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York. by Nick Krug

The Washington Wizards are one of the best teams among the also-rans that comprise the NBA’s LeBron Conference — sorry, that should read: Eastern Conference. But for all the skills D.C.’s superbly talented backcourt combo of John Wall and Bradley Beal bring to the floor, the Wizards are in obvious need of a backup point guard.

And it just so happens someone who would fit the bill came through Washington’s practice facility on Monday.

His name is Frank Mason III. He’s a national player of the year at the college level. He values toughness and winning. What’s more: he even has a personal history with the Wizards.

“I watched them a lot growing up and now to actually be out here working out in front of everyone that’s going to decide whether they want to pick me or not, I think it’s a really cool experience,” Mason told reporters after his latest pre-NBA Draft workout, roughly two and a half hours from his hometown of Petersburg, Va.

Why would a team that reached the second round of the playoffs and already has two high-priced guards need to draft a 5-foot-11 point guard not expected to be worthy of a first-round pick? The answer to that question came in the playoffs, when neither Brandon Jennings nor Trey Burke provided any punch to the Wizards’ bench combinations. Wall and Beal had to play 39 minutes a game. By the end of a seven-game, second-round series against Boston, both looked too gassed to produce at their typical high-octane levels.

Both Jennings and Burke hit free agency July 1, so Washington doesn’t even have another legitimate point guard under contract for the 2017-18 season. If the Wizards want a relatively cheap answer, drafting Mason in the second round on June 22 would be a low-risk fix. Even if the Wizards fear Mason — currently projected as the 48th pick at Draft Express — won’t be around when it’s their turn at No. 52, second-round slots are easily acquired on draft night, so Washington could move up to make it happen.

Mason wouldn’t have to play a lot of minutes for Washington, because Wall and Beal are so productive and integral to the Wizards’ success. But that would be ideal for Mason, too. In his senior year at Kansas, head coach Bill Self needed all the point guard could give him for 36.1 minutes a game. Obviously his opponents will be far more talented at the NBA level, but if Mason can throw every ounce of energy into 15 or so minutes a game it should highlight his best qualities in his rookie season.

The college star described what he considers some of his most impactful skills after his workout with the Wizards.

“Just my quickness. Just getting around guys and kind of finishing before they get a chance to contest or block the shot. And other than that just getting my body into them and throwing them off balance so I can get the shot over them,” Mason said of how he can score despite his below-average (by NBA standards) height.

“Just how consistently I shoot the ball and my play-making skills,” he added, “and my toughness and my defensive mindset — taking pride and just trying to get a stop every possession.”

There, of course, are other avenues — free agency and the trade market — for Washington to acquire a reliable backup point guard. But why go for a cheap veteran on the down side of his career when you could go get a 23-year-old leader with a history of proving his doubters wrong?

Mason cited his loyalty and other attributes to The Washington Post’s Candace Buckner when explaining why a team should value his experience and the success he had at KU.

“How I’m a team-first guy. It’s always ‘we’ instead of ‘I,’ and if we win, the pie’s big enough for everyone,” Mason said.

Sounds like someone ready to complement an outstanding starting NBA backcourt.

None by Washington Wizards

Reply 3 comments from Brett McCabe Ben Kane Greg Ledom

NBA commissioner: One-and-done system ‘not working for anyone’

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, left, congratulates Andrew Wiggins of Kansas who was selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers as the number one pick in the 2014 NBA draft, Thursday, June 26, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, left, congratulates Andrew Wiggins of Kansas who was selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers as the number one pick in the 2014 NBA draft, Thursday, June 26, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

The days of NBA commissioner Adam Silver shaking the hands of one-and-done draftees from Kansas, such as Andrew Wiggins, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Josh Jackson, could be over in the not-too-distant future.

Since 2006, the league has not allowed players to enter the NBA Draft directly out of high school, meaning most of America’s elite basketball prospects end up playing at least one season of college basketball. But Silver said during a press conference at the NBA Finals he — and many others impacted by the current structure — would like to put a “better system” in place.

The topic of the league’s current age requirement — 19 years old and one year removed from high school graduation — came up, Silver pointed out, during the latest collective bargaining negotiations. The NBA’s formal position, Silver stated, is in favor of raising the minimum age to 20. The NBA’s players association wants it lowered to 18, allowing the most coveted rookies to maximize their career earning potential.

The NBA’s owners and players tabled the issue when the sides last got together. Silver said in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday further study on the matter is needed.

“This year the projection is that we're going to have 20 one-and-done players coming, actually being drafted this year. When we first changed the minimum age from 18 to 19, the following year in 2006 we had two one-and-done players,” Silver began. “So my sense is it's not working for anyone. It's not working certainly from the college coaches and athletic directors I hear from. They're not happy with the current system.”

From the NBA’s perspective, its leader said franchises aren’t happy about the present one-and-done format, either. Silver related the feeling among organizations that the youngest incoming rookies aren’t arriving with the training teams expect to see out of top picks.

What’s more, Silver said veteran players have voiced their concerns that rookies often don’t enter the league game-ready, the way some of them did out of college.

“And we're also seeing a dichotomy in terms of the international players,” he added. “They're coming in, when they come in at 19, many of them have been professional for up to three years before they come into the league and have a very different experience than what we're seeing from American players coming through our college programs.”

With all sides apparently unsatisfied, Silver plans to get together with the interested parties — “whether it be the colleges, the, of course, our union, agents, lots of points of view out there, and see if we can come up with a better system,” he said.

Asked for a timetable regarding said age-requirement discussions, the commissioner anticipated they would take place over the course of the coming year.

“To be honest, I'm not standing here today saying I have the perfect solution,” Silver admitted.

The issue is far from resolved, but it appears Bill Self and other top college coaches might one day have either the benefit of keeping top prospects such as Wiggins and Jackson for two seasons — or return to the days of not recruiting the NBA-bound LeBron James and Kobe Bryant types.

Reply 14 comments from Phil Leister Brian Skelly Shannon Gustafson Gary McCullough Bryce Landon Jmfitz85 John Myers Joe Ross Robert Lofthouse Brett McCabe and 1 others

Frank Mason III impressing NBA teams with toughness — not college stats or awards

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) floats a shot over Purdue forward Vince Edwards (12) during the second half, Thursday, March 23, 2017 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) floats a shot over Purdue forward Vince Edwards (12) during the second half, Thursday, March 23, 2017 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

Now less than three weeks away from discovering what’s next for his basketball career, Kansas All-American guard Frank Mason III already has bounced around from Orlando, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Utah and Sacramento for pre-draft workouts. And at every stop along the way, Mason knows neither the prolific numbers he put up for the Jayhawks as a senior, nor his stash of national player of the year trophies mean anything to the NBA teams appraising his pro potential.

The 5-foot-11 point guard from Petersburg, Va., arrives at every on-court job interview with an impressive portfolio, featuring a substantial body of work from his four seasons at KU, but Mason told a group of reporters in Sacramento he’s gotten over the fact that his 20.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 47.1% 3-point shooting this past year with the Jayhawks might not be valued greatly by potential employers.

“I focus on what I can control and that’s just how the NBA is,” Mason said. “My job is to get better and go out and compete every day and just focus on those things, and everything else will take care of itself.”

Likewise, the 23-year-old prospect knows regardless of which team selects him — Mason is projected as a late second-round pick at the June 22 draft — he isn’t walking into a situation where he will play as much or be asked to contribute in a fashion similar to what Kansas coach Bill Self demanded of his star guard.

“It’s a process,” Mason said, when asked whether he could pick up in the NBA with the success he experienced in college. “I just want to enjoy that and focus on the things I can control.”

While showcasing his strengths in NBA facilities across the nation of late, Mason doesn’t mind the rigors that come leading up to the draft, saying he enjoys “getting in front of every team, every owner, GM, head coach, just the whole staff and just trying to impress them and show what I do best.”

Asked what teams have found most intriguing about his play, Mason didn’t mention speed or shooting or driving and creating. Instead, itt has been a familiar intangible helping him stand out.

“My toughness. I think that’s what every team’s been intrigued on from me,” Mason said, “and I just want to continue to do that and show them who I am.”

Those who watched him develop during the past four seasons at KU know all about Mason’s grit, and because he finished his college career as the nation’s top player at an elite program, he is set up to embark on an NBA career that few would have envisioned when he arrived in Lawrence as a relatively unheralded recruit.

“It gave me more opportunities. More teams started to like me,” Mason responded to reporters earlier in the week, in Salt Lake City, Utah, when asked how playing at Kansas helped him. “But, you know, it’s a different level. A lot of great players … national player of the year doesn’t mean anything anymore, so it’s like a fresh start. Now I’m just working harder to get even better.”

More Mason Q&A nuggets

Oregon forward Jordan Bell (1) reaches long to disrupt a shot from Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) during the second half on Saturday, March 25, 2017 at Sprint Center.

Oregon forward Jordan Bell (1) reaches long to disrupt a shot from Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) during the second half on Saturday, March 25, 2017 at Sprint Center. by Nick Krug

  • In Sacramento, Mason, as usual, worked out with a small group that included other college standouts. A reporter asked him whether it was tough running into an Oregon Duck — Jordan Bell — at the session, given the outcome of KU’s Elite Eight meeting with Bell’s team.

That evoked a rare smile and chuckle out of the often stoic Mason.

“Not at all, man. This is actually our second workout together, and we actually played on the same team at the NBA Combine,” Mason said. “I think that was the past and it was a great experience. We lost the game, but overall it was just a fun experience in college.”

  • Leading up to the draft, not every prospect has to travel the country in search of his first NBA contract. In Utah, Mason was asked whether he had participated at any workouts with KU teammate Josh Jackson.

“Josh is a lottery pick and he’s not doing too many workouts,” Mason said. “But I wish the best for him.”

  • During the next two-plus weeks, Mason will keep racking up frequent flier mileage as he meets with more franchises. He said he has “five or six” more lined up before the draft.

None by Sacramento Kings

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Jalen Rose: Josh Jackson ‘most valuable’ rookie in draft and worthy of No. 1 pick

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) comes in for a breakaway dunk during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017 at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky.

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) comes in for a breakaway dunk during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017 at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. by Nick Krug

Forget Markelle Fultz. Ignore Lonzo Ball. Get out of here with that Jayson Tatum noise. Pay no attention to the De’Aaron Fox buzz.

ESPN NBA analyst Jalen Rose has seen the most valuable incoming rookie. And his name is Josh Jackson.

Rose, a Detroit native like Jackson, brought up the most promising Kansas basketball talent in the draft during a broadcast of the show he co-hosts, “Jalen & Jacoby.” And Rose did so while discussing whether Boston, owner of the No. 1 overall pick, will draft Fultz, the versatile guard who spent his one-and-done season at Washington, or trade the pick in a move to land an established all-star.

“If I’m the Celtics, and they’re drafting for somebody else, don’t be surprised if that team wants them to take (Jackson),” Rose said. “I’m looking at you, Indiana.”

The Pacers, with whom Rose played for six seasons during his NBA career, are rumored to be looking into trade options for all-star forward Paul George before he hits free agency in 2018. Whether Jackson ends up with that franchise or another, Rose proclaimed the 6-foot-8 forward who wowed spectators and scouts alike with the Jayhawks is an NBA rookie to watch out for next season.

“He’s gonna be a player,” Rose said of Jackson, who averaged 16.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists for KU. “I haven’t really decided who I’m gonna compare him to, but he’s gonna be a lockdown defender that can play multiple positions. He’s an improved jump-shooter. And he has more bounce to the ounce at the hoop.”

Rose wasn’t done there, going on to praise Jackson’s toughness.

“See, that’s one of the things I look for in a player that ain’t a measurable that’s gonna be on the stat sheet,” Rose added. “And so, if I’m picking number one, just in a vacuum, regardless of need, if I’m thinking I’m taking the best player that’s actually who I personally would take first overall.”

According to Rose, the 20-year-old Jackson is the “most valuable” rookie in the 2017 draft class.

“When we’re watching basketball, in November, December, he’s gonna be a guy out there (getting thrown) in for minutes, SC Top 10 just banged on somebody catching a lob,” Rose predicted. “Like that’s gonna be his trajectory. Other players are gonna have terrific situations, hopefully, that they can be productive in. But if he falls in the right spot…”

At, Jackson is holding steady as the projected No. 3 pick, for Philadelphia. But all three teams at the top of the board — Boston, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Sixers — have seen their names come up in draft trade rumors. So there’s a chance Jackson might not necessarily end up playing for the Celtics, Lakers or Philly, or even the teams who should hope he drops out of the top three, Phoenix and Sacramento.

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