Thursday, December 12, 2013


Column: Like predecessors, Mason should grow out of inconsistency, into talent

In his time at Kansas, Bill Self has coached up several talented but inconsistent freshman point guards, including Sherron Collins, left, in 2006-07, and Frank Mason, right, this season.

In his time at Kansas, Bill Self has coached up several talented but inconsistent freshman point guards, including Sherron Collins, left, in 2006-07, and Frank Mason, right, this season.


— Nobody can make a freshman point guard play like a rookie quite like a polished senior backed by a frenzied crowd in a building where only a few feet separate the spectators from the participants.

Frank Mason, Kansas University’s super fast, ultra competitive freshman from Petersburg, Va., had his moments Tuesday night in the O’Connell Center, Florida’s on-campus arena. Mason made his first two three-point shots. After taking an outlet pass from classmate Joel Embiid, Mason blew past traffic and looked as fast as Jadeveon Clowney behind the wheel of a car on his way to a tough bucket.

Florida senior Scottie Wilbekin had his moments, too, such as all 36 minutes he was on the floor, varying his pace and making smart plays at both ends. Wilbekin was one of four seniors starting for the Gators, Mason one of four freshmen in the Jayhawks’ starting lineup. The bigger the moment, the better Wilbekin performed for the Gators. He put pressure on KU at both ends and consistently knocked down big shots, finishing the night with 18 points, six assists, four steals and two turnovers.

A hometown recruit, Wilbekin didn’t enter college basketball playing that way. Very few do. He averaged 2.4 points and 1.6 assists as a freshman and 2.6 points and 1.6 assists as a sophomore.

The day will come when Mason competes on the other end of the experience disparity, a senior exposing the youth of a talented freshman. Tuesday night he was on the wrong end of a mismatch, but he’s ahead of schedule and was far from the first talented guard to have a rough night (no assists, five turnovers) as a freshman. In his second game for KU, Mario Chalmers committed seven turnovers in 17 minutes vs. Arizona in Nov. 2005.

In KU’s previous meeting with Florida, on Nov. 25, 2006, the Jayhawks brought a quick, confident relentless competitor of a freshman off the bench to play alongside Chalmers. The reserve was the king of the no-no-no-yes play and sometimes just the oh-no play. Watching him play basketball made the mind drift to picturing him in a satin robe, eyes locked, boxing gloves on his hands, standing in his corner, shaking the tension out of his legs, readying himself for a bloody battle. Sherron Collins triggered the imagination the way Mason does now.

Collins didn’t have it that 2006 night in Las Vegas against the Gators, where he played just seven scoreless minutes and had nothing to show for them but three personal fouls. Three seasons later, Collins was a first-team All-American. No reason to think Mason can’t make the same strides and earn the same accolades.

KU coach Bill Self had the luxury of making a sixth man out of Collins in 2006-2007 because he had a steadier hand at point guard. No frills, few spills junior Russell Robinson kept the ball moving in KU’s half-court offense and, as part of the Jayhawks’ sound man-to-man defense, did a nice job of keeping it from moving.

Collins’ game wasn’t yet refined enough to run the team, but that didn’t keep KU from going 33-5 and all the way to the Elite Eight that season.

There is no Robinson available to enable Self to ease Mason into playing the point, a position foreign to him until this season. Naadir Tharpe is two years ahead of Mason, the same experience gap between Collins and Robinson. So far, Tharpe hasn’t mastered the art of rapid ball movement. He’s a couple of inches shorter than Robinson, not as strong, and doesn’t defend as well.

Self will play some combination of Mason and Tharpe at the point and will continue to play them together for stretches. How much the point guards improve during the season will play a big part in determining whether KU can push its first-place Big 12 streak to 10 seasons and in how long KU’s season lasts.

At the moment, the position is the No. 1 concern for Kansas, off to a 6-3 start.

Comparing Mason and Collins

First nine games of college careers

Frank Mason921.
Sherron Collins918.


Dirk Medema 8 years, 8 months ago

"No frills, few spills, keep the ball moving in KU’s half-court offense"

This is (supposed to be) Tharpe. Yes, there are differences, and the D unfortunately is the most (only) significant difference.

Benz Junque 8 years, 8 months ago

His predecessors, Johnson and Taylor, were still inconsistent in their senior years. I hope he grows out of it a LOT faster than they did.

Bryce Landon 8 years, 8 months ago

Tharpe looked better last season than he has so far this season.

Evan Bilyeu 8 years, 8 months ago

That is not true at all, he was a terrible shooter which has gotten so much better, and he didn't know what to do with the ball, still the same, if he was better last year he would have been the starting point guard over Elijah

Ethan Berger 8 years, 8 months ago

Tharpe was never a bad shooter and was always a skilled passer.

Scott Newell 8 years, 8 months ago

Taylor was a stud from December on his senior year. We will take that from Mason or Tharpe.

Benz Junque 8 years, 8 months ago

No, we will not. If Mason doesn't become a stud until the last half of his senior year then he will have found himself long since replaced via recruiting.

Rich Hetherington 8 years, 8 months ago

The main difference between the 2 to me is that while Sherron wasn't getting a ton of assists, I already considered him a better passer. He also finished at the rim, and while there's not a huge different in their shooting % this far into their careers, Sherron was a McDonalds all American and you could see it even early on. He was able to drive to the rim and put the ball in the hoop. That's something I really hope we see from Mason as time goes on. In the mean time, we have Tharpe for the remainder of his Junior and Senior years and I hope to see him make strides into becoming a leader as well. I want to see the Tharpe that came into the Ohio St. game last year and had 9 assists, 0 turn-overs, and the Tharpe that everyone was crying to see start over EJ last year! What happened to that guy? My guess it's that he doesn't have experienced guys like Withey, Releford and EJ to pass to, not to mention McLemore, but he does have bright, talented freshmen that will become more and more dependable as the year goes on, and that goes the same for Mason.

Suzi Marshall 8 years, 8 months ago

Longer terms, I also think Mason will be fine. My concern is for this year when we have Wiggins and Embiid. Did Tharpe do to get ready for this year? He knew this year was his time to lead the team. It looks like he's taken a giant step backwards in every phase of his game, especially D.

We will have 3-5 big time Big 12 competitors this year. ISU, Baylor and OSU all will be capable to challenge for the National Championship while OU and Texas will probably be solid tournament teams. The Big 12 winner(s) may have 3 or 4 conference losses this year. In a few weeks we find ourselves going into conference play with not PG again. What a pity to have so much talent with nobody to lead. If this team finds a way to win the Big 12 it will be one of Self's best coaching years.

Tony Bandle 8 years, 8 months ago the rest of the team gains experience, they will be able to help the point guards by getting in better position to receive passes, coming back to help out, switching on defense, bringing the ball down themselves to relieve pressure, etc.This improvement coupled with the guards own improvement with experience will help alleviate the situation somewhat.

Will our point guards reach elite status this way. Will they be servicable coupled with the abundance of frontline talent?...I think so.

As a wild card, we have only seen one game [Duke] whereby Wayne Selden was actually Wayne Selden. Him breaking out would go a long way to rectifying the point guard issue!!

Suzi Marshall 8 years, 8 months ago

Oak, I went back over the game last night to do the tic-toc for HEM to show him the time stamps where Mason missed lob dunks. I posted it on the string last night. During that UF game review, I noticed how well the team was prepared to attach the various zones. For the majority of the time, we had excellent spacing and moved to the seams while Embiid sealed his man to position for an easy score. We could/should have destroyed UF. Repeatedly our guards, mostly Mason, needlessly moved into trouble they could not escape. Tharpe did far better running the O but was still subpar. Tharpes D was horribly bad. I was hoping Selden would take a shot at PG but the UF game dismissed that idea, for now.

Robert Brock 8 years, 8 months ago

Wasn't the starting point guard supposed to be Cat Barber? Fact is, Coach Self has missed on several point guard recruits. When that happens, you end up with Naadir Tharpe and Frank Mason.

Phil Leister 8 years, 8 months ago

The starting point guard isn't "supposed" to be anybody. Tharpe and Mason are very capable players.

Benz Junque 8 years, 8 months ago

Agreed, he has been pretty mediocre. I watched the NC State loss to Cincy and Barber was no better than either of the guys we have now.

Robert Brock 8 years, 8 months ago

Point taken. He has 31 assists to 17 turnovers.

RJ King 8 years, 8 months ago

Of the freshman pg's who had KU high on their list, Barber has seen 29.9 mpg, Harrison 28.6, Mason 21.7, Jackson 23.8 and Peters 19.7. Allerick Freeman is injured. Tyler Ennis (31.0) is getting significant minutes. Their stats look like this:

Point per Minute:
Barber .44 MASON .42 Ennis .36 Harrison .36 Jackson .34 Peters .32

Assists per Minute:
Peters .168 Ennis .158 Barber .132 MASON .124 Harrison .122 Jackson .088

Rebounds per Minute:
Jackson .122 Ennis .103 MASON .083 Barber .081 Harrison .069 Peters .071

Turnovers per Minute:
Ennis .032 Jackson .046 MASON .072 Barber .072 Harrison .080 Peters .141

Strength of Schedule for their teams looks like this. Lots of separation here.

1  Kansas    (Mason)   .7179

31 Syracuse (Ennis) .5892

33 Maryland (Peters) .5858

77 Kentucky (Harrison) .5526

233 NC State (Barber) .4693

279 Notre Dame (Jackson) .4458

Obviously the level of competition has an effect. Barber has not faced nearly the competition as has Mason. SOS likely accounts for some of Peters TO's. Ennis is doing quite well in his freshman campaign, but like Hetherington mentioned above, it helps to have experienced players to pass to.

Just thought I'd round out the picture.

Mick Allen 8 years, 8 months ago

Thank you. Very informative post. Hope you saw this Suzi. Show a little more patience with Mason

Tony Bandle 8 years, 8 months ago


1] Look at the pictures above..not only does Bill seem to be wearing the same toup, it looks like he is wearing the same suit and he doesn't look a day older!!

2] KU's next four opponents [NM, Geo'tn, Toledo, SDST have a current accumulated record of 28-4......add to that the team records of opponents already played, 60-18, the total is 88-22.......Bill must have been chewing peyote when he made this schedule. :)

3] Will the following individuals please report to The Sprint Center on Saturday in place of their stunt doubles.....Tarik Black, Naadir Tharpe, Wayne Selden...thank you.

4] There's a new game out for Christmas. It's called WHERE IN THE WORLD IS AWIII????

5] Santa leaked HCBS's Christmas List; backline defense, outside shooting, increased aggressive play, less fouling, more driving to the hoop and a new power drill.

Ron Franklin 8 years, 8 months ago

4. Seriously. What the hell happened, there.

Ron Franklin 8 years, 8 months ago

Whoops. Forgot about the pound thing. I promise I'm not yelling at you Mr. Oak :)

I have not been able to watch the game yet-apparently this is an important time of the year for children and my wife for some reason thinks Basketball isn't that important....I tell her she's the crazy one.

Did Greene playing (as I did see on a few plays) point, bringing ball up help beat the zone? Did his height play an advantage over the 5'9 eyes of Mason & Naadir?

If so, why did Bill wait so long to get someone who could actually see inside to make passes. I've read a lot of posts that there were rainbow passes. That, to me, indicates a height issue.

Reminds me of my senior year when I was pulled out of the backfield to play QB after ours went down. Since I'm about 5'7" I just kept lobbing rainbow passes to my tight end--hoping he was in his spot bc I couldn't see him.

The ol 88TE Dump

Of course we won the game :)

Dirk Medema 8 years, 8 months ago

Send them to bed, and watch the late night replay on ESPN. It's a charm.

Ron Franklin 8 years, 8 months ago

Thanks, I have it recorded, I just have not had time to watch it yet.

RJ King 8 years, 8 months ago

Regarding the DVR: with my husband an avid Syracuse fan, we sometimes approach our memory limit for recordings. With four kids/step kids, occasionally the dog must receive blame for dumping an X-factor episode or Justin Bieber special.

Benz Junque 8 years, 8 months ago

Most network shows are available "on demand" for free from your cable or satellite providers or online. My Direct TV has virtually all of my network shows that I watch available on demand within a few days of their original airing and they have limited ads. Check to see if shows your kids record are available so you don't have to bog down your DVR with them.

RJ King 8 years, 8 months ago

Your very sincere and informative response is both charming and appreciated. Actually my comment was part truth, and part silliness. (We don't really blame the dog - I was just relating to Blown when family stuff conflicts with Jayhawk love.

My husband is actually the senior coordinating producer for our regional sports networks, so we pretty much have the TV thing down. But there are many people who miss out, not knowing about that feature. Thanks again for spreading the word.

Asad Zoberi 8 years, 8 months ago

I was discussing the Florida game last with my 10 yr old son. I said several things to him as to how:

  1. KU is so young this year, starting 4 Frosh vs 4 Seniors last year
  2. How KU's schedule has been so brutal, toughest non-conf in the country
  3. How Tarik Black and Naadir Tharpe have not been able to provide the leadership everyone had hoped they would
  4. How KU has not played early games in the friendly home environment
  5. And several other points

After listening to my speech for about 15 mins, my son looked at me and made only one comment' "Dad KU players don't huddle"

His comment made me speechless and I asked myself some questions. Are our talented players playing as a team? Are they communicating on the floor? Are they supporting each other? Are they backing each other? I could not say Yes without hesitation to any of these questions.

Chris Shaw 8 years, 8 months ago

I disagree with the leadership stuff. What is it they have done wrong? They were great in the preseason.

Asad Zoberi 8 years, 8 months ago

Almost everyone looks great in the pre-season, they really looked good in the late night and the Sat AM scrimmage while the top recruits were in town.

Chris Shaw 8 years, 8 months ago

The point that I was making is that "Leadership" doesn't directly involve minutes on the court. I think Black and Tharpe are doing fine with their roles and taking it well and doing everything they can to get the young-ins up to speed.

The only problem is that for the last 5 straight games teams have mixed up their zone defenses, which have completely confused every Jayhawk on the team. If you don't get scoring from your main scorers in Ellis, Selden, and Wiggins...You aren't going to be very productive from the PG spot either.

If you are going to go "young" you have to take the good with the bad.

Rich Hetherington 8 years, 8 months ago

Will we ever see a game where we combine for say 12 of 16 three-point shooting? With AWIII, Frankamp, Greene, Seldon, Wiggins and Tharpe on this team, I don't understand why we haven't shot the 3 ball a bit better this year. I just can't wait until we improve our inside/outside game to create more dunking and lay-up opportunities, but maybe more importantly, lead to some over 3's... and then to see them fall, that will be a great day!

Benz Junque 8 years, 8 months ago

If 12-16 is your goal then you are going to be disappointed. Last year, Creighton was #2 in the country in three point fg% and the best game they had was 12-20.

Let's not completely lose touch with reality, folks. Obviously it woul dbe great to hit 12 threes in a game but Ku doesn't need to hit double digit threes to be an elite team. They need to be decisive and aggressive and attack the rim. They need their bigs to be more aggressive in getting into a place where the guards can get them the ball. It IS realistic to expect KU to have games where they shoot 60+% on the post. I understand that making a few more threes and at a better overall percentage will open up the interior a bit but let's not get away from our strength.

Mike Riches 8 years, 8 months ago

Great article comparing these two bulldogs! Really, what impresses me most about Mason is how much he has improved over the past couple years. As Rich mentioned above, Collins was a McDonald's All-American and one of the highest rated PG his senior year, Mason was signing with Towson coming out of high school. Think about how much he has grown since his senior year, and it's easy to imagine how good he could be by the end of this year, let alone after four years at Kansas! I believe that's why he got the starting job so early, not because he's a lot better than Tharpe right now, but because Tharpe, after 2+ years in this system, wasn't showing any sign that he was going to run it extremely well by year's end. Yes, Mason has a lot to work on, but he has shown that he can and will work and improve.

Chris Shaw 8 years, 8 months ago

This is not a PG issue at the moment for Kansas.

It's Kansas and Self trying to figure out how get the tempo and speed of the game back into Kansas' favor. Opponents are going to continue to mix up full court pressure, 3/4 court pressure, token pressure, and these 1-3-1, 3-2, and 2-3 zones.

Wiggins finally stepped up his role in the second half, but Selden has been virtually invisible since these teams starting going to these gimmick zones to slow down Kansas.

Until Kansas starts making opponents pay for using these gimmick zones...Kansas will continue to struggle.

Anybody notice that when Tharpe/Mason was in the game that Donovan would immediately switch to the 1-3-1 zone with his longest player out front?

Self IMO is struggling with his combinations and utilizing his personnel. Selden is great against Man defenses and worthless against Zone defenses. Greene hasn't been good against man defenses and is pretty good against zone defenses. What to do?

I liked Greene as a point/forward. I liked it a lot.

Michael Pannacciulli 8 years, 8 months ago

I have bigger concerns about Selden. His release is not great and most games you rarely know he's on the floor. His physique for his position is a bonus but is he using it to his advantage? I still have high hopes for him...hoping he has a beeak out game soon!

Ethan Berger 8 years, 8 months ago

I'm starting to think, like Chris Shaw, that the issues are not really point guard related. Jack Wilson, I know you watched the game again so if you read this, correct me if I'm wrong.

But from what I've seen is our off the ball guys just don't move. Our points are expected to do everything and it's been hard. I think Naadir is a much player then what we have seen. He looks to be forcing the issue. Frank is a bulldog but hasn't been as much as of recent weeks because of the zone. I'm thinking that once are guys start moving off the ball, our offense will open up. Guys will be able to drive better and more importantly started drawing more fouls.

Benz Junque 8 years, 8 months ago

EVERYONE on the team has issues. It's not just the PG. It's not just the play against the zone. It's not just the weak rebounding. It's not just the outside shooting. It's a combination of all of these factors.

There is not one thing that KU needs to fix to be great. Every player on the team has things they need to do to help the team reach their goals. There is not one player on the team that I look at right now and say "keep doing exactly what you are doing". There simply isn't.

Benz Junque 8 years, 8 months ago

Even he needs to get healthy so he can go back to being practice fodder for the starters to beat up on.

Chris Shaw 8 years, 8 months ago

Does anybody remember last year when Tharpe tried to take over games? He did this because B-Mac, Relly, and EJ weren't exceptional "Scorers". When those guys were ice cold and doing nothing on offense...Tharpe would then take it upon himself to get aggressive and try and bail them out.

This year, Wiggins, Greene, and Selden are suppose to be Kansas' "Scorers" and much better (Based on Perception and stupid recruiting rankings) than EJ, B-MAC, and Relly.

Well, the problem is that when Wiggins, Ellis, Selden, Greene, etc aren't doing their job...Tharpe is now doing his job still by deferring to those guys when things are going really bad.

Tharpe and Mason are actually waiting for those guys to take over and at the last resort when it isn't happening Mason has taken on the role of Tharpe last year...which is something he got slammed for last year.

Tharpe is in a lose/lose situation IMO because if Selden and Wiggins were truly taking on the "Scorers" duties like they should be doing (Like Wiggins did in the second half)....we wouldn't even be talking about these PG issues.

Asad Zoberi 8 years, 8 months ago

I disagree on Greene. During limited playing time he has shown great ability, he is long, can knowck down trey and has good ball handling skills. Besides Wiggins he played with great energy in the last game. We will definitely need him during the stretch. He reminds me of Brandon Rush. We need to create some set plays so he can knock down the treys.

Chris Shaw 8 years, 8 months ago

I agree with Asad...If Greene can get some minutes so he can figure out the speed of the game and let it come to him...I think he could be a true asset. But the key is getting good minutes.

Benz Junque 8 years, 8 months ago

It's way too early to start cutting down to specific people. While I still want starters to get the vast chunk of the time, I have no problem with Self still trying to alternate between Greene or White and then Lucas or Black.

Bernard Gregory 8 years, 8 months ago

Someone hit the nail on the head and its related to a comment I made on another post.If Frank stop waiting on the 5 star players to get things going and be more assertive in the beginning then you will see a better team because I know that he knows how to penetrate in those zones,but what I see from watching the games is that he is deferring to the guys that most are expecting to be the ones to attack . I hoestly feel that he has to realize that coach Self has given him the start for to be that guy but he is not convinced that is the case. Once he gets comfortable knowing that watch out.

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