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Frank Mason III not comparing himself to Isaiah Thomas, but rooting for similarly-sized guard

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Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) puts up a shot against Kentucky forward Derek Willis (35) during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017 at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) puts up a shot against Kentucky forward Derek Willis (35) during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017 at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. by Nick Krug

During his senior season at Kansas, point guard Frank Mason III seemed larger than life with the ball in his hands. But the consensus national player of the year’s relative lack of height has NBA decision-makers hesitant to take Mason, who averaged 20.9 points and shot 47.1% on his 3-pointers, before the late stages of the second round at next month’s draft.

The most recent predictions from Draft Express have Mason slotted as the 49th overall pick. Given the KU ball handler’s projected stock and the compact frame that belies his impact on the court, it’s not surprising Mason finds himself enjoying the exploits of an All-NBA guard who faced similar obstacles when he left college basketball behind.

During a recent interview with The Vertical’s Shams Charania, Mason didn’t try to say he was the next Isaiah Thomas — the 5-foot-9 point guard from Washington who has helped the Boston Celtics reach the Eastern Conference Finals — or even that he tried to model his game after the two-time all-star. But when the subject of the sparse number of players in The Association Mason’s size came up, the Big 12 Player of the Year couldn’t help but bring up his admiration for Thomas, the 60th and final selection in the 2011 draft.

“I really don’t model my game after anyone,” Mason told Charania and The Vertical. “But, you know, I always had confidence in myself, no matter who’s in the league. But I look at Isaiah Thomas and I really root for him, because people counted him out and said he couldn’t do the things that he’s doing now. So I have a lot of players in the league that I like, but I’m really rooting for Isaiah.”

Thomas, six seasons into an NBA career that has far exceeded the expectations of his critics, was named second-team all-league this season after averaging 28.9 points and 5.9 assists while helping Boston to the best record in the East. Had Thomas not completely blown up the past few years with the Celtics, many would be quick to compare Mason, a talented yet small guard, with the most recognizable vertically-challenged scorer in the league. Fortunately for Mason, who measured 5-11 without shoes at the NBA Draft Combine, he should be able to avoid any unrealistic parallels and simply keep Thomas in mind as proof that you don’t have to be 6-6 with a 7-foot wingspan to make it at the highest level of basketball.

Mason — he of the 6-3.25 wingspan and 41-inch max vertical, by the way — also enters the youth- and upside-obsessed league as a 23-year-old, four-year college player. His accolades and statistics say that shouldn’t matter, but look at the complete mock draft at Draft Express and you’ll find zero seniors listed in the first round. Charania asked Mason what he thought about some teams potentially favoring younger prospects.

“I just let them know how much I improved through every year. Not only on the court, but as a young man off the court,” Mason said. “And I just tell them how tough I am, how much I’ve improved my shooting and how great of a play-maker I am and — most importantly — a good defender.”

Before the June 22 draft Mason said he plans to work out for somewhere between 12 and 13 teams. Earlier this week he was in Orlando to showcase his talents for the Magic. When he goes on these basketball job interviews, Mason told The Vertical he has a general objective.

“I think it’s more mental than physical, so I just really want to show them that I’m mentally tough as well as physically tough,” Mason said. “And I just want to go out there and be myself, be the player that I’ve been over the years and show them how much I’ve improved.”

No, he’s not the next Isaiah Thomas. But drafting Frank Mason III shouldn’t be a concern for teams in need of point guard depth, because guards listed at 6-feet and under have more space than ever in the modern NBA to maximize their strengths on the floor — as proven by the Celtics guard Mason finds himself rooting for during the playoffs.

Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) drives to the basket past Washington Wizards forward Markieff Morris (5) during the second quarter of Game 5 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, in Boston, Wednesday, May 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) drives to the basket past Washington Wizards forward Markieff Morris (5) during the second quarter of Game 5 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, in Boston, Wednesday, May 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Comments

Len Shaffer 1 week ago

It's hard for me to believe that Frank won't make it onto some NBA team. Anyone who can't see how much heart and character he can bring (along with his talent) is crazy.

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