Frank Mason making the most of senior season

Buddy Hield (24) guards WVU guard Jaysean Paige (5) during the Mountaineers 69-67 win over Oklahoma in the Big 12 Semifinal on Friday, March 11, 2016.
(Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, Bluegoldsports.com)

LAWRENCE, KS.–In an era where it is so common for the one and done or the early departures to the NBA, sometimes staying in college for four years is beneficial.

Not only do you get a degree but it can mold an athlete for a star-studded senior season.

One example is Buddy Hield.

The 6-foot-4, 214-pound guard elected to return to Oklahoma for his senior season last year and emerged into one of the best in the game, winning the National Player of the Year and leading the Sooners to the Final Four.

Hield went from a freshman that averaged 7.8 points per game and shot 23.8 percent from beyond the arc to a star that averaged 25.0 points and shot 45.7 percent from 3-point range.

“Buddy was a great example of what college can do for you and also what hard work does, ” Kansas head coach Bill Self said in the weekly Big 12 teleconference. “I’ll be candid. I thought Georges (Niang) was a good example of a guy staying four years how it can benefit you. And then we benefited from Perry (Ellis) being here four years. But Buddy is probably the primary example. You go from being a guy, I don’t know what Buddy shot, he may of shot like under 20 percent from 3 as a freshman to arguably one of the best shooters our game has seen, college game has seen and National Player of the Year. Of course last year the credit goes to him and OU did an incredible job of putting him in a position to have success.”

That’s a drastic change.

This year Jayhawks’ guard Frank Mason III seems to echo that sentiment, proving that opting to leave college early isn’t always the best decision.

“But Frank on a minor scale, I think he has put himself in a position to be an All-American,” Self added. “And of course he could also not be very easily. Certainly having him for four years has been a blessing for all of us and has been great or him. And he will be the first to tell you college has given him the opportunity to have a pretty good life whether it be on the basketball court or off it.”

This season the 5-foot-11, 190-pound senior is averaging 19.5 points and 5.8 assists per contest. He is shooting 50.8 percent from beyond the arc and 52.9 percent from the floor.

Frank Mason (0) guards WVU’s Jevon Carter during Kansas’ 81-71 win over the Mountaineers in the Big 12 Championship on Saturday, March 12, 2016.
(Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, Bluegoldsports.com)

During the 2015-16 season, Mason averaged 12.9 points and shot 38.1 percent from 3.

And in his freshman campaign, the Petersburg, Va. native averaged just 5.5 points and shot 32.7 percent from 3-point land.

Like Hield, Mason is another gym rat that has dedicated four years into making himself a better athlete while earning a college degree.

“Most guys that are very competitive, if you challenge them, will want to work and he’s one of those guys,” Self said. “We hear all the stories about how much time Buddy spent in the gym. Frank goes to the gym and nobody knows it. He is one of those guys that he never calls attention to himself on all the extra things he does. That’s one reason why I respect him so much. He’s a guys’ guy and certainly everybody around him know how much he’s committed himself to the game and how much he’s committed himself to getting better.”

Even though Mason is small in stature, he is a gritty competitor. He is strong and fast.

With conference play under way, the senior is hoping to improve on the defensive end of the ball as

Kansas Jayhawks guard Frank Mason (0) drives to the basket as Texas Tech Red Raiders forward Anthony Livingston (21) defends during the second half at Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks won 85-68. (Photo Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports)

Kansas prepares for a dogfight with Baylor and West Virginia for the Big 12 title. And it’s time for Mason to embrace his role as a team leader.

“We talked to coach about it. Me and Devonté (Graham) talked about it. It starts with us on the defensive end,” Mason said. “We’ve got to cut the head off every game, picking up full court, making them (opposing guards) feel us, getting them uncomfortable.”

If Mason continues to excel as conference play continues, he could win the National Player of the Year honor.  And maybe more student-athletes would be inclined to finish their degree and develop into players like Hield, Mason, Ellis and Niang.

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