Every year, there is always one “talked about” player in the NCAA. Last year, it was Buddy Hield, and the season prior, guys like Jahlil Okafor and Frank Kaminsky dominated any conversation about college hoops. Luckily for the Jayhawks, one of the most talked about players this year is their own Frank Mason III.
From the get-go, Frank Mason has been a contributor to the Kansas basketball team. He started his freshman year playing about 16 minutes per game, and he has skyrocketed to playing 36 minutes per game in his phenomenal senior season. His maturity and level-headedness has been huge in helping all of the one-and-dones over the last few seasons.
His first season, Mason was playing just how a freshman who anticipated staying longer than one season should have been. Averaging 5.5 points per game in his rookie season, he was projected to contend for a minutes increase as his career moved forward. Then Conner Frankamp transferred just days before the season began, leaving the point guard controls entirely to Mason. He hasn’t looked back; he’s started every game for KU since game one of the 2014-15 season. He emerged as KU’s most important player in his sophomore year. He quarterbacked the No. 1 team in the nation for the bulk of the season in his junior year.
And right now, in his magical senior season, he is averaging 20.2 points per game, and his remarkable ability to maintain his consistency has propelled him to a frontrunner for National Player of the Year.
When KU first started recruiting Mason, it is said that he was really an under-the-radar type of guy. Just last night, Bill Self told the crowd the story, one that he summed up with Tom Keegan of The Lawrence Journal World after the game:
“(I’m) so thankful that coach Townsend saw him in a back gym in Vegas when we were there recruiting another kid. Kurtis said, ‘Bill, I think this kid is as good or better as anybody we’re recruiting.’ I said, ‘Well, who else is recruiting him?’ That’s what all coaches would say. ‘Well, not really too many folks at all.’ ‘Well, are you sure he’s that good?’ He said ‘Well, I’ll go back and watch him some more.’ First impression was he was (that good). After watching him more, Kurt liked him even more. We knew he’d be a good player when we got him, but his maturity and how hard he’s worked on his game and his knowledge of the game has grown so much. I don’t know if he can win national player of the year or if he deserves to, but I would say positively he deserves to be in the very immediate discussion with two or three other guys as the primary candidates.”
Kansas’ amazing 2013 class featured Andrew Wiggins, the consensus #1 recruit in the country, as well Wayne Selden and Joel Embiid, who were both five-star recruits. Brannen Greene was arguably the top shooter in the class. Conner Frankamp was going to become one of the best point guards of the Self era. And buried at the bottom of the class, a 5’11” point guard from Petersburg, Virginia: Frank Mason, who has turned out to be easily the most memorable player in that incredible class.
If Frank Mason III were to win National Player of the Year, that would bring up one very important question: Is he the best point guard in Kansas history? It is hard to analyze if he is the best all-around player. Playing at guard is a much different game than playing down low. Nevertheless, it isn’t crazy to say that he deserves to be in the conversation with all of the great shooting guards in Jayhawks history.
If there were a Mount Rushmore of great guards in KU history, Frank Mason definitely deserves a spot up there. Others up there would be Sherron Collins, Mario Chalmers, and Brandon Rush. But Frank Mason would certainly be up there.
Many are saying that National Player of the Year is his to lose right now. If the Jayhawks can make a considerable run in the tournament, he will have it locked down, along with his spot in history as a great KU guard. If the Jayhawks win it all, it’ll be all but official: Frank Mason is the best point guard in Kansas basketball history.