The rise of Frank Mason from left bench to crunch time

The No. 34 overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft and Naismith College Player of the Year, Frank Mason III has turned heads around the league for his recent play after a very slow start to his rookie season.

If you know anything about Mason’s rise to the NBA it wasn’t easy to say the least. Mason was always counted out growing up in Virginia and never received the attention he demanded, which was merely based on his physical attributes.

Being under 6-foot in today’s game is an instant red flag and only puts NBA hopefuls at an immediate disadvantage compared to their counterparts.

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Mason standing at 5-foot-11 with a wingspan of only 6-foot-3 wasn’t blessed with a “prototypical” NBA body by any means, but what he lacked in physical gifts he made up for it mentally.

After receiving no offers out of high school and over looked by most, Mason got the one opportunity he needed by doing enough to impress a Kansas assistant coach at the Amateur Athletic Union circuit after his senior year in high school who coincidentally was there to scout another collegiate prospect.

After arriving at Kansas, Mason elected to stay four years in school starting only three games as a freshman until finally taking a leadership role his senior year earning the Naismith College Player of the Year, averaging 21 points and 5.2 assists for the Jayhawks.

“Freshman year I played 15 minutes a game, and I thought I should be starting as a freshman but Coach (Bill Self) thought different,” Mason told the Sacramento Bee. “So I just played the role of coming off the bench (backing up Naadir Tharpe) and I think I was pretty good. Sophomore year I adjusted and started.”

Even after receiving the Bob Cousy Award, College Player of the Year, and 1st team All-American honors in 2017, Mason still remained an afterthought as 33 other NBA teams passed on him in the 2017 NBA draft.

Mason knows what he brings and although it may come in a smaller form he has shown that confidence and fiery passion for the game of basketball can go a long ways.

He isn’t interested in all the attention and accolades that go along with his play rather focused on what he can do now to help his team come out with the victory.

Through the first 15 games of the current Kings’ season, Mason struggled to find consistent minutes buried behind De’Aaron Fox, George Hill and the array of combo guards on the depth chart.

Mason as he always does didn’t panic seeing playing time in only seven of those first 15 games using whatever time he was allotted by coach Dave Joerger as a non-pressure audition for more minutes later in the season.

Any basketball player will tell you it’s all about confidence and finding a rhythm within the rotation, and fans can only imagine how hard it must have been for Mason to find a groove in a situation that didn’t allow for him to know when those minutes would come.

In those seven games that Frank Mason did get to play he provided a clip of 13 minutes, 5.6 points, and 2.1 assists. Although this doesn’t pop off the page at first glance, in his defense, he was coming off the bench after games had already been decided early in the first three quarters because of the team’s overall play, leaving Mason in a tough situation to begin with.

But being the pro that Mason already is, he used those small increments of playing time to his advantage as a stepping stone to the future games he would play in.

You see him out there and Mason is so calm and collected, a trait that can’t be taught. Mason is never too high or too low.

After 15 games, although not impressive, Mason did enough to force Joerger to not only play and trust Mason, but incorporate him in the rotation during significant points in the game.

“He’ll get up and guard, push the basketball,” Joerger said. “He’s a threat to score. You have to close to him because he can really shoot the basketball. I think he’s going to get more comfortable.”

The transition of Fox and Hill into the starting lineup together allowed for Mason to begin finding consistent minutes off the bench, playing an important part to the Kings’ recent success against many of the league’s elite organizations.

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In the team’s past 12 games we have seen a significant rise in Mason’s playing time as he has posted averages of 21.3 minutes, 9.7 points and 3.8 assists. [These averages were before he played versus the Suns Tuesday night]

Again, this is such a small sample size but his professionalism and work ethic in the gym can’t go unnoticed especially as a rookie.

His confidence is impressive, whether it was driving to the rim head on against the best player in the NBA in LeBron James and smoothly finishing the layup, or setting up his teammates for easy dunks against the Golden State Warriors, which led to a 4-point victory. No matter the situation, he’s ready for any possible scenario to be thrown at him without thinking twice.

These are signs of a player ready to change a franchise looking to set a winning culture once again. Ahem…Isaiah Thomas.

Frank’s a fighter there’s no question about it, and it’s scary to think what kind of mark he will eventually leave in the NBA using his motivational tools that have fueled him up to this point.

A simple Twitter post from Frank Mason III after the 2017 NBA draft is seeming to become more of a fact as each game passes us by, “Thanks for believing in me Sacramento Kings, I promise you won’t regret it.”

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Cameron York
Special Contributor to Cowbell Kingdom

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