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