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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Keegan

Column: Frank Mason crucial for Kansas

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) hooks a backdoor pass around Utah forward Brekkott Chapman (0) during the second half on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014 at Sprint Center.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) hooks a backdoor pass around Utah forward Brekkott Chapman (0) during the second half on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014 at Sprint Center.

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Timing isn’t everything, but it can play cruel jokes on those who don’t wait patiently before making decisions.

For example, Kansas University freshman guard Devonté Graham could have grown impatient waiting for a definitive answer on whether Naadir Tharpe would return for his senior year. Graham could have gone to his second choice. But he waited, and a day after Tharpe left saying that he needed to go closer to home, Graham signed on with Kansas.

Tharpe, by the way, is playing for the Los Angeles D-Fenders of the Developmental League. He has played in 10 games for the D-Fenders (3-10) and is averaging 5.7 points, 3.8 assists and 2.7 turnovers. He has totaled six minutes in the past five games, with a DNP-coach’s decision in three of those. Rosters fluctuate in that league, so that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be glued to the bench for long, or worse, all season.

Graham has been in the rotation since the beginning, so his decision worked out well for him and KU, although his big-toe injury will sideline him for anywhere from four weeks to all season.

Conner Frankamp’s timing wasn’t so great. Frankamp, whose goal is to play in the NBA, believes his best path includes playing point guard. He had Frank Mason and Graham ahead of him. So he quit before the season started. He could have played the first semester and then quit and still be eligible to play for Wichita State, second semester next season.

Except now that Graham is down for such a long stretch, Frankamp wouldn’t have quit. Since coach Bill Self prefers to have Mason play some of his minutes off the ball, Frankamp could be staring at as many as 15 or 20 minutes a game at point guard.

Oh, well, no use crying over the bridge built to cross the spilled milk. Or something like that.

Now Frank Mason stands alone at the point, with Wayne Selden available to take over when Mason needs a quick breather heading into a timeout.

Mason carries a big burden as the team’s most indispensable player. He leads the team in minutes (32.4), assists (3.6), steals (1.4) and three-point shooting percentage (.500, tied with Graham), ranks second (10.6) to Perry Ellis in scoring and second (.879) to Brannen Greene in free-throw percentage and fourth in rebounding (4.0, season-high 10 vs. Michigan State).

Mason, a 5-foot-11 sophomore from Petersburg, Virginia, is that little dog who thinks he’s a big dog and is ready to prove it any time, anywhere. The team benefits from his contagious confidence.

Comments

Michael Sillman 7 years, 5 months ago

The training staff better tape both of Mason's ankles and add lace up braces. We are one turned ankle away from being out of point guards.

Jonathan Briles 7 years, 5 months ago

Its very scary to think how fragile that position is for us right now. An illness, injury, suspension, or any number of things could leave us with a gaping hole in our lineup. Luckily for us Mason is a young healthy bulldog with a good head on his shoulders. I don't see him going down unless its something severe. Here is to wishing Mason a healthy season and Graham a speedy recovery. Rock Chalk!

Jeremy Wilhelm 7 years, 5 months ago

If I was an opposing coach, I'd plan everything I could to get Frank into foul trouble.

Asad Zoberi 7 years, 5 months ago

I do not even want to think the outcome if Mason gets hurt.

Steve Corder 7 years, 5 months ago

He's also one of the best rebounders we have! Too bad there's no index or metric to use which statistically proves this. Like rebounds per minute per height in inches....sounds like a measurement for a cube....oh well.

Suzi Marshall 7 years, 5 months ago

I never want to hear the name of that kid that quit again.

Losing Graham hurts a lot but Self will figure out something to more fully utilize the flexibilities of Selden/Greene/Mykailiuk/Oubre. All of those guys are major talents that will be in the League. Selden and possibly Mykailiuk can relieve some of the point pressure.

Self has stated the obvious conclusion this year's team does not have the personnel to play the inside-out style we love so much...and be a competitor for the Big 12 and NCAA titles. If we are going to play the slash/driving style, we need to continue to shoot +80 percent from the FT line and play D.

Let's hope our play in the paint will improves. One would think with talent like Ellis, Alexander, Traylor, Oubre, Selden, Mason, and Mykailiuk .... play in the paint would be our greatest strength.

Suzi Marshall 7 years, 5 months ago

Initially I was. However, I don't go out of my way to inquire about the interpersonal relationships within the team. I was curious about his departure, especially the time, so I asked around a bit. We are all better off with him elsewhere.

Brianna Zaleski 7 years, 5 months ago

Steve,

Isn't it amazing to watch him sky for rebounds? He's consistently ripping boards from taller guys who play down in the block. He's one of the best rebounding PGs we ve had in recent memory. Right? Or am I forgetting someone obvious?

Jonathan Allison 7 years, 5 months ago

It's great to see him in there going after the ball. Typically, teams want their point guard releasing to be the the outlet man leading the fast break, but Mason is a one-man fast-break, and his rebounding sets a mood for the team.

Mick Allen 7 years, 5 months ago

Mason's numbers from the Utah game were 5 assists and 3 turnovers, however he should have had 3 more assists if we could finish at the rim. He threw a beautiful lob to Lucas who slammed his dunk attempt off the back of the rim. He had another to Perry, that was depicted on the front page of the sports section in the Sunday Journal World that Perry didn't finish and another to Perry where he hit just 1 of the 2 free throws awarded. Self indicated that we might have to use Evan Manning to occasionally give Frank some rest. Saw Evan play in high school. He will make few if any unforced errors. He is a smart player with a good touch. The issue will be his ability to take care of the ball when pressured and trapped. Greene might be the best free thrower we have had here in a long time. Not only is he automatic,he seldom even touches iron on his makes. He was 4 for 4 Saturday, and they were so pure they barely moved the net.

Suzi Marshall 7 years, 5 months ago

Having guys that can convert FTs has been the winning formula. If Self is going to have a couple of guys penetrating, we need spot up shooters on the floor. Best example, again, were the Bulls with MJ. Paxton and Kerr (and to a lesser degree Armstrong) earned a great income spotting up and hitting open 3 when MJ, with Pippin and Cartwright in tight, drew the defense into the paint.

It's really hard not to be a Mason fan, but he and the team have a lot of room to improve with their play in the paint. We have got to improve our play in the paint, i.e. passing, moving into position, screening and finishing, which is reflected in our two point shooting percentage and turnovers.

The team works their tails off. The all have great hands, quickness and athleticism. One has to believe we can excel in this area.

John Randall 7 years, 5 months ago

Keeping Frank fresh and injury-free Isn't an option – it's a necessity. Sometimes Evan Manning can handle a few minutes while Frank takes a breather. Other outside combinations can do the same for brief periods.

Joe Joseph 7 years, 5 months ago

No doubt about it. KU is screwed if Mason can't stay healthy.

Mick Allen 7 years, 5 months ago

Suzi, shall I assume that you are now a Mason fan? Took you awhile, but I'm glad you are on board.

Suzi Marshall 7 years, 5 months ago

I've always been a Mason fan, especially when Self shows such great confidence in him. How can any Kansas fan not be a fan of a guy that works so hard ...and grab 10 boards being the smallest guy on the court? My concern has been and continues to be his ability to see the game and make the plays in the paint. Ironically, it was the Standford game which showed me he can do the job.

Have you ever watched tapes from our games, especially when he drives? Mason and the team are making fatal errors on almost every drive! It's painful to watch...however, it took TT 3.5 years before he could make those plays ...and we are 8-1 vs 6-3 last year.

Joe Ross 7 years, 5 months ago

I'll take it, but Im at a complete loss to explain how we could possibly be standing at 8-1 on the year. Our defense is shaky nearly all the time and we struggle defensively against opponents with size. Big men do whatever they want to us in the post. Speaking of, we cant score the ball over height either. We disappear offensively for long stretches of games, our passing is atrocious, and we are getting little to no production from several key players. Im tempted to hope with this team that they might actually live up to their potential, or at least close the gap by half. The one thing that seems constant is Mason. Let's hope he doesn't have an off night...

Mike Riches 7 years, 5 months ago

Someone will have to explain to me why it is unreasonable to expect that Frank will be able to play 35+ minutes a game this season (if Graham is in fact sidelined all season.) I realize the physical demand of doing that, but Frank is an incredible athlete (Self has called him the best athlete on this team.) He is 20 years old, which is the same age as guys going into the NBA. If an athlete can go to the league and be expected to compete for 82 games, including some back-to-back nights, and go against MUCH stronger and faster competition, why can't an athlete like Mason be expected to play extended minutes for 30-35 games this season? I understand that the risk for injury increases as a player gets tired, but personally I think he's up to the task. Has he been laboring at the end of games...ever?

Joe Baker 7 years, 5 months ago

We are fine. We have other people that can play pg in a pinch. Selden would be the next option. Svi can handle the ball too. Your other option could be Brannen Greene. A last option might be Oubre. I still like my lineup:

Selden

Oubre

Greene

Ellis

Lucas

I might even consider bumping Ellis to the three and see what he's got.

Selden

Greene

Ellis

Alexander

Lucas

They're all turning the ball over way too much at this point.

Mick Allen 7 years, 5 months ago

Joe I have to assume those 2 lineups have Mason injured and not able to play? I certainly assume so.

Mick Allen 7 years, 5 months ago

Suzi, I recall more than a few comments by you last year and the fall of this year where you thought Frankamp was the guy to play point for us, with you specific reference to Conner's play in last year's NCAA tourney as being one of the reasons. Then when we signed Graham the battle for that position was to be between Graham and Frankamp. You state who couldn't be a fan of Mason because he works so hard but then in the next sentence you state your concerns with Mason being "his ability to see the game and make plays in the paint". In light of the fact that seeing the game and making plays in the paint are two areas that define the ability of a point guard, this hardly seems like a ringing endorsement of Mason's play at the point. I have acknowledged on more than one occasion that Mason needs to be more discerning when getting to the paint off the bounce, needing to develop the floater so he doesn't take the ball the 2 or 3 more bounces toward the rim that get him into a position of going in the air with no place to go with the ball.I have never contended he is a finished product, but what he is, is a quick, tough kid that that possesses more of the tangible athletic skills that define a point guard. I admit I am old and forgetful, but I remember your posts questioning whether Mason would ever be a significant contributor to KU basketball. If my conclusions on my opinion of how you have perceived Mason and continue to perceive him, are inaccurate, I apologize.

Suzi Marshall 7 years, 5 months ago

Mick, I have always loved Mason's skills you outlined, i.e. toughness, quickness, athleticism, tenacity AND defensive intensity. Like you mentioned, I've always questioned his ability to see the game, lack of being vocal and his J.

I have always felt he would be a significant contributor ...as a Junior or Senior. I was amazed Self kept going with Mason after the Bahamas but I'm never going to question Self's ability to spot and coach talent. My immediate reaction to the Stanford loss was he'd made a huge mistake not giving the ball to that guy who quit. Upon hearing Self's explanation and re-watching the game, it was clear Self was correct, especially knowing the style of play he wants.

I would much rather have a team that can pressure on D and take the ball to the glass rather than shoot 35 3's per game. I don't know if we can get to that inside-out this year. The team looks clueless operating in the paint.

Joe Baker 7 years, 5 months ago

Mason is fine. I don't see any radical changes in the lineup anytime soon. Mason is a bulldog and the pg is his. I'd like to see him get vocal and take total control of this team. He reminds me a bit of Trey Burke.

Luca Rossi 7 years, 5 months ago

Mason is showing incredible toughness and ball handling which is critical to this team's success and he should be commended for that. However, in my opinion he still needs to take things a step further as this team's point guard. Another stat he is also leading the team in which isn't mentioned in the article above is Turnovers. Ok, well he is pretty much our only PG and has the ball in his hands the most, is making the most passes, etc so thats to be expected, right? So then the assist to turnover ratio should be a fair way to evaluate his play. His assist to turnover ratio is 1.6. Thats way below Tharpe last year who was allegedly run out of town with a 2.4 and only slightly better than a first year PG, EJ, who had a 1.5.

You'd think that since he has pretty much been our only pg for the overwhelming majority of the season's minutes, he also would have the most passes off of set plays and easy assists, lobs, back screens, etc. Why isn't his A/TO ratio higher? Being the PG comes with a lot of scrutiny, but if he can elevate his play even more and get that A/T ratio much higher, he will also get a lot of the credit when the team does well.

There's no doubt about it, Mason is the key to how this season will play out. His play would be raved up and down at most schools out there but this is Kansas and we should hold the players to a higher standard. He has played decent so far but definitely needs to get better if we're going to make a deep run in the tournament.

Mick Allen 7 years, 5 months ago

I agree generally with what you are saying Luca especially with regard to the assist turnover ratio. He needs to have at least a 2.5 to 1 ratio and I think he will get there. I think he has a little flexibility with those assist to turnover numbers because he is not a pass only point. He and Perry are our only 2 players averaging in double figures. Also, if Perry or Landon could finish underneath he would have 8 assists to 3 turnovers instead of 5 to3 in the last game. Landon misses the dunk off the lob, Perry went up soft and didn't finish on a great dump off from Mason that was the picture on the first page of the Sunday JW sports page and another pass to Perry where he hit only 1 of 2 free throws. He never gets his dribble stolen and is the best at bringing the ball up against pressure.He is as good an on ball defender as we have and leads the team in steals. He is our best, percentage wise, 3 point shooter and second only to Greene in free throw percentage, Hitting them at an 88% clip. He had a great block on an attempted 3 pointer by Taylor on Saturday in the last minute of the game and his rebounding at 5'11" is amazing. So give him a little slack Luca on the assist to turnover ratio, although you are correct in that he needs to tighten that up some. Lastly remember he hadn't played point until his freshman year last year. It seems he is doing a good job while learning on the fly.

Erich Hartmann 7 years, 5 months ago

A 2.5:1 assist/turn ratio would be great, but I dont think we've had such a guard in the Bill Self era. Russell Robinson was maybe 2.2:1, and I think he was better than Sherron, and both a bit better than Tyshawn. I dont recall EJ's stats.

Frankamp would keep the ball, not run the offense. He needed his touches, and that simply wasnt going to happen at KU. The only time the PG is called upon to score, is when the offense broke down, and Self had no choice but to tell Tyshawn to "drive it!". But would he tell CF that? (No, that isnt CF's skill).

Erich Hartmann 7 years, 5 months ago

Mason has one of the tightest dribbles of a PG in the Bill Self era. I think Sherron was the best dribbler prior to Mason, but occasionally Sherron would get his pocket picked. RussRob was pretty good, too.

Imagine Mason's assist numbers if he was passing to Shady or the Morris Twins or Thomas Robinson?

Love Mason, awesome soldier for Self's attack plans! He has a chance to be the best Self PG.

Erich Hartmann 7 years, 5 months ago

Enough about Frankamp. No, no, no. Wrong playstyle. Frankamp isnt a light-speed penetrator. Frankamp was a volume shooter in h.s. He'd never fit into KU's playstyle, unless you wanted a 5'11 version of "safely-feed-the-post" Brady Morningstar? To this day, Im not sure why Self recruited him...maybe hoping he'd grow 2-3 inches by his frosh year?

Look at Mason and Graham, forget about Frankamp. The law of Div.1 Athletic Reality just bit Frankamp, and it hurts: too small AND too sleight-of-build. To actually say his goal is to "play in the NBA" is simply absurd. CF couldnt even outcompete the PGs on his own KU roster... He doesnt penetrate like Mason/Sherron/Tyshawn. He doesnt elevate like Mason/Tyshawn. He is 165lbs (LeanSherron was 200, Mason 190, Tyshawn 185, Graham 180). I bring up recent Self's attack-style PGs, as that's what Bill Self wants now. He implored/begged/pleaded/browbeat Elijah Johnson to attack, saying that Tyshawn lived at the FT line, and I think had 4x the number of FTatt's compared to EJ. But EJ, while he had the NBA body, he simply lacked the attack-dog mindset. If he'd had about 10-12 more games like the 39pt IowaSt game, EJ would have gone lotto. How the hell does 5'11, 165lb, non-attack-dog CFrankamp fit into today's NBA? When he cant even fit into a royalty program's college roster?

And with Mason hitting 50% treys, and with Graham able to hit 3s as a frosh, then add Greene, Selden, Svi, Ellis on 3s as well: Connor who?

Let me put it in another equally blunt way: If Frankamp wanted to actually have a shot to make the NBA, he needed to be 6'3 or 6'4, and with the frame, size and hops of Ron Baker or maybe Tyrel Reed. Baker started from Day 1, and deservedly so... Reed didnt really get to shine, as he was overshadowed on his KU roster.

People look at Connor Frankamp's minutes in our L-O-S-S to Stanford, which is absolutely meaningless, as we lost that game. We dont need to revert to a short+slow Brady-type...haven't y'all noticed Self's favorite PGs are ones that put heavy pressure on the opposing D? He absolutely loves Sherron Collins, and he loved seniorTyshawn. Mason is in that attack-dog mold. I love that style of PG.

And YES, Self is back to having 2 or 3 combo guards. Mason, Graham, Selden. Do-it-all types. Makes us very dangerous to opponents, as we can hurt opponents from all 5 positions.

And there's the little tidbit about having to battle for mpg on the WichSt roster. Frankamp isnt about to unseat Ron Baker. Nor will he unseat VanVleet, who is very similar to Mason. What will happen is Cotton leaves, Baker moves to wing, and Frankamp plays the 2, with VanVleet staying PG...

Erich Hartmann 7 years, 5 months ago

I got a better discussion: How good is frosh Graham compared to frosh Chalmers? Both 6'2. While not a MckyD, Graham's extra year in prep school allows him to have a lot more polish then he had out of high school. He is a 4star. We'll let the world keep thinking "AppalachianState???" about Graham...but he is so much more than that connotation. (And you see that he is more than CFrankamp). Graham will be our little secret crusader...hope he comes back healthy sooner rather than later.

Mick Allen 7 years, 5 months ago

Erich great comments. I would love to talk hoops with you anytime. Mason's handles are as good as any point guard we have had, as you noted.

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