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.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

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.