Frank Mason III draws comparisons to Collins at KU

KU basketball's Frank Mason

FEBRUARY 2015 – Kansas sophomore point guard Frank Mason III calls Sherron Collins one of his all-time favorite Jayhawks.

And why is really not surprising. Not only was Collins one of the greatest point guards in school history who helped lead KU to a national title in 2008, he and Mason have striking comparisons. Like Collins, Mason stands 5-11 and has a stocky, muscular frame. Like Collins, Mason is a deft ball handler and speedy in transition. Like Collins, Mason is an impressive three-point shooter and attacks the lane at will while fearless scoring over bigger players in the paint.

And like Collins from Chicago’s West Side, Mason grew up with like-minded toughness and grit in Petersburg, Virginia’s inner city, a player that KU coach Bill Self calls a “pit bull” with “a lot of fire in his belly.”

Self believes Collins is the gold standard who Mason should try to become.

“There are some similarities,” Self said about Collins and Mason. “Sherron is the baddest boy we’ve had here. It’s hard to say that anybody is Sherron. I mean, Wiggs (Andrew Wiggins) was great last year. There are a lot of guys we had that great. There’s nobody that came in here that was a better basketball player than Sherron Collins, period.

“The thing about it is, Frank’s more athletic than Sherron, because as Sherron got older, and I don’t think he was quite as explosive as he was when he was young. But I love Frank, that would be a great goal, for him to get to the point where he can play like Sherron, because that guy was a special college player.”

Mason aspires to do just that.“I’d say so because obviously Sherron was a great player here,” Mason said. “Coaches know it, fans know it, so yeah, that would be a great inspiration to do.”

While Mason may not be the next Sherron Collins just yet, he is certainly on his way with a breakout sophomore year, KU’s most improved player, and has emerged as one of the best Big 12 point guards.

Last year, Mason was trying to find his way backing up Naadir Tharpe at point guard and averaged 5.5 points, 2.1 assists and 1.3 rebounds in 16.2 minutes per game, while shooting just 41.7 percent from the field and 32.7 percent from beyond the arc.

But this year has been a whole different story for Mason, who has started from day one. Mason was averaging 12.7 points, including a team-high 13.3 in Big 12, 4.2 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 33.2 minutes per game, while shooting 47.4 percent from the field, 45.5 percent from three-point range and 81.8 percent at the charity stripe. Mason leads KU in assists and steals, while ranking eighth in the Big 12 in field goal percentage, fourth in assists, 13th in steals, tied for 14th in three-point field goals made (1.3 per game) and seventh in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.03).

Those stats only tell part of story, though. The Jayhawks leaned especially heavy on Mason for six games from Dec. 13 to Jan. 7 as the only scholarship point guard on the roster when freshman point Devonte’ Graham was injured with a sprained toe.

“He did a great job of carrying the team playing 40 minutes pretty much every game,” Graham said.

Self, who will continue to lean on Mason, has called him the team’s most valuable and consistent player.

“He can shoot the ball more,” Self said. “He’s playing tough and really trying to do what we ask him to do. Frank will tell you different, but he’s never really been a point guard. He’s been a scorer, but I think he’s doing a good job of running our team and defending the other team’s point guard.

“He’s tougher, he understands the game better, and certainly has much more confidence than he did last year.”

Mason talked about his improvement from last season.

“I think I’ve become a better shooter,” he said. “I’ve become better at getting in the lane and creating easy shots for my teammates and pitching the ball ahead in transition and just making the easy plays.”

Mason has not been surprised with his success, yet knows there’s another level he needs to take.

“I always knew I was capable of playing this well, even though I still don’t think I’m playing to my full potential,” Mason said. “I’m trying to do what my teammates need me to do and what coach wants me to do.”

Self has always been a believer in Mason.

“I don’t think he has exceeded my expectations at all,” Self said after the diminutive guard grabbed a game-high nine rebounds and scored 16 points in KU’s 67-57 victory over Oklahoma State on Jan. 13.

“I thought he was this good ever since we recruited him,” Self added. “I was hoping he could play like this last year as kind of a take-charge guy. He’s improved a ton, but I don’t think he’s succeeded anything.”

Mason first made his mark at Petersburg High, finishing as the school’s second all-time leading scorer behind NBA legend and Hall of Famer Moses Malone. Still, college recruiters weren’t exactly beckoning at Mason’s doorstep. Mason wound up signing with Towson in Nov. 2011, but failed a government class and was ruled ineligible to play in college.

Mason, who later passed the class, next took his game to Massanutten Military Academy in Woodstock, Virginia, where he elevated his play and attracted more scholarship offers.

“I know he did a great job of leading his team, being very coachable and basically understanding that he had a chance to be at a real high level where maybe he never saw that early on in his high school career,” Self said.

Mason, who was not ranked in the’s top-100, chose Kansas over offers from Alabama, Maryland, Louisville, Rutgers, South Carolina and Virginia Tech.

“I always knew I could play,” Mason said. “I always had the mindset I could play with anybody or anywhere. Coming to KU, I knew I would be a great fit for this program. This is where I chose to come.”

Mason is a rising star, energizing his teammates and fans with his inspiring play and uncanny knack of scoring amongst the trees of college basketball.

“I’m trying to figure it out so I can do it,” KU sophomore guard Wayne Selden Jr. said in amazement. “He’s doing a great job.”

Said Self, “He’s about as good as I’ve seen at using his body to shield the defense and still putting soft touch on the ball.

Not only are his teammates and Self impressed, but Mason’s talents have gained national attention and earned unwavering respect from opposing coaches.

“He’s a poor man’s Allen Iverson,” said ESPN analyst Seth Greenberg. “He’s a tough kid, love the kid.”

After Mason posted 18 points, seven assists and four steals in 38 minutes in Kansas’ 76-61 victory over UNLV on Jan. 4, Runnin’ Rebels coach Dave Rice couldn’t stop raving about the sophomore.

“He’s a guy that makes the whole team go,” Rice said. “He organizes it and gets the ball where it needs to get to. He probably doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves. As talented as the rest of the guys are on that team, he was the guy that was first on our scouting report. He’s the key to their season.”

Rice, too, marvels at how Mason finds the net over the outstretched arms of much taller players.

“I think that’s obviously why he was recruited to Kansas because he’s a fantastic player and he’ll be one of many in the long line of great guards at Kansas,” Rice said. “He’s a guy that can certainly help them make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. You don’t always appreciate him until you watch him a few times, but he just always makes the right plays. He plays at a great pace. When his team needs a basket, he scores a basket. Most of the time, he’s the guy who makes the play, gets it to an inside player, or hurries it up on the break or gets a steal. He just makes all the right plays.”

He makes “all the right plays” like Collins did. The former KU star has some sage advice for Mason.

“He tells me that I remind myself of him and to keep playing, attacking and do what coach needs me to do,” Mason said.

Self just needs Mason to keep leading the team and making huge plays as the team’s MVP.

“I think Frank is going to be huge for us the rest of the year,” Self said. “He is getting better all the time.”

Article by David Garfield

One Response to Frank Mason III draws comparisons to Collins at KU

  1. john Donaldson says:

    Good article I have to say Id agree. He’s a special breed of player

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *