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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.

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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

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

Reply 3 comments from Brian Leslie Chris DeWeese Jmfitz85

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 DraftExpress.com, 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.

Reply 5 comments from Brian Leslie Glen Robert  Brock Chris DeWeese John Brazelton

Frank Mason’s 3-point shooting key to upward-trending draft stock

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) puts up a three against Oklahoma guard Jordan Woodard (10) during the second half, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017 at Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) puts up a three against Oklahoma guard Jordan Woodard (10) during the second half, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017 at Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla. by Nick Krug

In 2013, Frank Mason III showed up at the University of Kansas as a 5-foot-11, 185-pound freshman and, given the lack of recruiting buzz around him, a bit of an afterthought. At the time nobody other than Mason envisioned the quiet, compact point guard from Petersburg, Va., transforming into the consensus national player of the year of serious NBA prospect.

In just his second game with the Jayhawks, Mason showed flashes of the toughness that would one day make him a college great, scoring 15 points in a win over Duke. But he didn’t become an overwhelming talent on the floor until his senior season.

Becoming an authentic 3-point marksman proved a pivotal component of his overhaul. Mason recently sat down with DraftExpress.com for a one-on-one interview ahead of his ongoing NBA Draft preparations and his vastly improved 3-pointer featured prominently in the workout footage that accompanied the Q & A.

Mason scored 20.9 points a game as a senior for KU because he could score anywhere on the floor — he shot career-bests of 49% from the floor, 47.1% on 3-pointers and 79.4% at the free-throw line.

It was that long-rage accuracy that caught the attention of scouts and decision-makers in the NBA, though. Just in time to make him a more viable pro prospect, Mason knocked down 82 of 174 3-pointers as a senior — after making 85 of 211 (a respectable 40.1%) combined during his sophomore and junior seasons.

Totals Table
Season G MP FG FGA FG% 2P 2PA 2P% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT%
2013-143556563151.4174596.4691855.3274771.662
2014-15361207150340.441108242.4464298.429110140.786
2015-16381272155357.434112244.45943113.381136183.743
2016-17361301241492.490159318.50082174.471189238.794
Provided by CBB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 5/26/2017.

“It’s just something I’ve got better at over the years,” Mason told DraftExpress, when discussing his 3-point precision, “and I think the game was just a little too fast for me my first year in college. So I was kind of rushing a lot. And I just kind of got at my own pace and it kind of got better.”

Mason’s emergence as a dynamic play-maker and shooter at the college level forced NBA teams to take him seriously as a prospect, and weeks ahead of the June 22 draft, DraftExpress projects him as the 48th pick.

The 23-year-old Kansas star still has numerous workouts lined up with franchises around the country before one is expected to snatch up his rights late in the second round. Mason told DraftExpress how he plans to make the most of his in-person auditions.

“I can show them how athletic I am, what a good defender I am, a good leader, a good play-maker and how much I improved on my jump shot,” Mason said.

At this stage of his development as a basketball player, Mason thinks his 3-point shot should only help his ability to attack off the dribble, get to the paint and create shots for his teammates. But his time at KU also helped his on-court personality.

“I was a guy that really led by example, but over the years I worked on being more verbal and vocal and I think I got better at that,” Mason said, while describing various attributes that help make him an effective point guard.

Mason’s stock has gradually trended upward over the past several months. We shouldn’t be surprised if that continues in the weeks ahead and Mason ends up an early- or mid-second round draft pick.

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Ahead of draft, Frank Mason III out to prove ‘it’s not all about size’ in NBA

Kansas' Frank Mason III participates in the standing vertical jump at the NBA basketball draft combine Thursday, May 11, 2017, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Kansas' Frank Mason III participates in the standing vertical jump at the NBA basketball draft combine Thursday, May 11, 2017, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

For the next month, in every NBA city he visits, Frank Mason III will answer questions about his lack of size and how that impacts his ability to translate his college success at Kansas to the next level.

On Monday, the 5-foot-11, 189-pound consensus National Player of the Year found himself in St. Francis, Wis., addressing queries on his dimensions following a workout with the Milwaukee Bucks, owners of the 17th and 48th picks in the 2017 NBA Draft.

Mason’s relative lack of stature, in comparison to the long bodies occupying courts all over The Association, won’t always be a hindrance once he joins the ranks. The 23-year-old’s speed, strength and 41-inch vertical will allow him to use his proportions as an advantage at times.

“Just getting in the lane, play-making,” Mason began, when asked how a sub 6-foot guard could benefit from working with a vastly different frame than most of his competition. “Shooting the ball consistent and just doing what I do best — getting other guys involved, scoring the ball and focusing in on the defensive end.”

Although Milwaukee’s roster has become synonymous with length and wingspan — the Bucks at times played 6-foot-11 Giannis Antetokounmpo at point guard — the team’s vice president of scouting, Billy McKinney, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Mason had the components necessary to play in the NBA.

“By the time he came back to Kansas his senior year, you could see his game had evolved to the point where he was a true leader for that ball club," McKinney said. "Tough as heck, gritty and started to make better decisions with the basketball, which is going to serve him well at the next level.”

During the 2016-17 regular season, only 18 players listed at 6-foot or shorter played in the NBA. Some, like Boston’s Isaiah Thomas (a favorite of Mason's) and the L.A. Clippers’ Chris Paul, were great. Others, such as Orlando’s D.J. Augustin and Denver’s Jameer Nelson, didn’t make much of an impact.

Still, thanks to the successes of small guards such as Thomas, Paul and Toronto’s Kyle Lowry, Mason thinks there is a role for players his size on basketball’s biggest stage.

“Shorter guys are getting in the NBA and still filling the stat sheet up, doing what the taller guys do,” Mason said. “So it’s not all about the size. It’s more about the heart and what do you do when you get out there.”

Thus far, Mason has worked out for Milwaukee and Orlando. Off the top of his head, he told reporters in Wisconsin he thinks he has “10 or 11” left before the June 22 draft, where he is expected to be a second-round pick.

The whole pre-draft experience, Mason said, feels unlike his four years of college basketball at Kansas.

“Just the travel and the experience with the NBA guys. I think everything is pretty different about it and it’s something I’ll always remember and something I’m just trying to enjoy,” Mason said.

None by Spectrum Sports KC

Reply 3 comments from Herb Derpson Creg Bohrer Phil Leister

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

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)

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