Kansas University junior point guard Frank Mason III says he definitely enjoyed his postgraduate year at Massanutten Military Academy. Yet, back in the fall of 2012, he was relieved to be granted at least one weekend pass by officials at the strict Woodstock, Va., school.
“I went on a recruiting visit to Maryland. I got a chance to get out of the mountains and go watch them play (a football game). I couldn’t do that often. It was a great time. The game was great. I think they won,” said Mason, who ultimately chose KU over Maryland, Virginia Tech, South Carolina, Providence, Seton Hall and Rutgers.
“The environment was special. They’ve got a very good basketball program, a good football program. It’s just a good school overall,” Mason added of KU’s upcoming basketball opponent in the NCAA tournament Sweet 16. Tipoff is 8:40 p.m. Thursday in KFC Yum!Center in Louisville, Ky.
“We can’t wait to get there,” Mason said of Louisville. The Jayhawks are scheduled to leave Allen Fieldhouse at 1 p.m. today, drive to Topeka, then fly charter for the next round of the NCAAs. “We’ve not made it to the Sweet 16 since I’ve been here. It’s a different feeling. I think the guys are still not satisfied. We want to accomplish more,” Mason added.
KU will hold an open shootaround from 3:10 to 4 p.m. Wednesday in KFC Yum! Center.
Tough foe: KU coach Bill Self has started preparing for No. 5 seed Maryland, which enters with a 27-8 record, including NCAA first- and second-round wins over South Dakota State (79-74) and Hawaii (73-60).
“I honestly believe they have as good or the best starting five in the country,” Self said Monday on USA Today’s national podcast. Maryland boasts starters Melo Trimble (6-3, sophomore), Rasheed Sulaimon (6-4, senior), Diamond Stone (6-foot-11, 255-pound freshman), Damonte Dodd (6-11, 250, junior) and Robert Carter (6-9, 235, junior). Jake Layman, a 6-9, 220 senior, lends more muscle off the bench.
“I don’t think it’s one of those things you look at them and say, ‘If we could stop this and that, then we should be good.’ There’s a lot of this and that with them,” Self said. “We’re evaluating it and breaking it down right now. We’ll have a game plan, but when you are balanced at all five spots, you are much more difficult to guard. All their guys are capable of having very big nights.”
Self, Turg are friends: Self and Maryland coach/KU grad Mark Turgeon go back a long time.
“I played against Turg his freshman and sophomore year,” former Oklahoma State guard Self said of the former Topeka Hayden point guard, who played for KU and coach Larry Brown from 1984 to ’87.
“When I came up here as a grad assistant (to Brown), he was our sixth man (during KU’s run to 1986 Final Four),” Self added. “He was really a good player. I’ve known Turg for a lot of years. I’ve always been a fan of how he’s conducted himself. He’s really good at his trade, obviously. He’s got these guys not only playing extremely well this year, but set up to be very good moving forward as well,” Self added.
Turgeon, who was a captain his junior and senior campaigns, worked on the coaching staffs of Brown and Roy Williams at KU.
“I know he loves KU,” Self said. “He obviously loves Maryland and has done a fabulous job there. It’ll be an emotional game (for Turgeon) but an emotional game for us, too, because the stakes are the highest they’ve been.”
Winner advances to the Elite Eight on Saturday against Villanova or Miami.
He’s a Royals fan: Turgeon and his sons, Will (16) and Leo (10), attended the deciding Game Five of the 2015 World Series between the Royals and Mets at Citi Field in New York, the Baltimore Sun reports. In 1985, Turgeon was at Kauffman Stadium for Game Seven of the Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Royals, of course, were crowned world champs both times.
Turgeon told the Sun jokingly that he has “brainwashed” his sons into becoming Royals fans despite the fact they’ve lived in Maryland five years and, before that, Texas, when he was A&M;’s coach for four seasons.
“They’re diehards now,” Turgeon told the paper.
He feels fortunate he has seen two Series clinchers of his favorite team.
“There are not many of us. I was in the building in ’85, and I was in the building (again),” Turgeon told the Sun. “For sure, me and George Brett were at both games.”
Turgeon is married to former KU basketball manager Ann Fowler. They also have a daughter, Ella (12).
The day after the Series winner, Turgeon told the Sun: “Ella and I will have a dad-daughter night. She had a girl’s night out with her mom (instead of going to game), so it all worked out.”