What do Sherron Collins, Ben McLemore, Jacque Vaughn, Jo Jo White and Darnell Valentine have in common?
They were second-team All-Americans at Kansas, great players who just missed getting into the photo as part of college basketball’s starting five for a particular season.
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Hard to believe that a program as successful as KU’s hasn’t produced a first-team All-America guard in the nearly 70 years the Associated Press has picked the team.
It’ll also be hard to believe if Jayhawk senior guard Frank Mason doesn’t break the streak this season. He has to be everybody’s All-American, right?
Mason had 21 points, three assists and two steals while playing 38 minutes in KU’s 74-71 win over Kansas State on Monday night at Bramlage Coliseum. He’s had better games, but his impact on the outcome was still mighty.
“I’m biased, but he makes big plays and he makes hard shots,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “He does a lot to give our team a chance to win.”
Self could go on and on about Mason, and also about freshman guard Josh Jackson, who should gather some All-America attention, too. Jackson scored 18 points against K-State while being limited to 25 minutes because of foul issues. After making two three-pointers in the first 90 seconds of the second half Monday, Jackson picked up his third foul and went to the bench. He scored only one point in the final 18-plus minutes of the second half.
That’s OK, though, because Mason usually wills Kansas not to lose. His diving play to rescue a loose ball resulted in him flying over a table on the baseline then recovering to get back to the court and make an out-of-nowhere steal.
It was all so good until Mason lost control of the ball out of bounds as he was driving for what looked to be an easy basket.
Mason scored 13 points with Jackson nursing his third and fourth fouls.
“I’ve never met a guy who is as small as (Mason) and as tough as he is,” Jackson said. “The plays he makes, they really tend to rub off on the rest of us. We see him make plays like he does and it really steps up everybody’s defensive intensity.”
Mason relished being inside Bramlage on Monday. He soaked up the taunts from the loud and clever K-State students who were out in large numbers hoping to rattle the Jayhawks.
Mason, though, is a different kind of leader. And it’s obvious that his teammates take their cues from him.
“I was trying to get the crowd into the game even more and make the game even more fun,” Mason said.
There are, of course, a bunch of standout guards in the country. But none can match Mason for either his numbers or his intangibles.
He’s averaging 20.4 points, 5.1 assists and 4.3 rebounds. He’s shooting 50.6 percent overall and 51.9 percent from the three-point line. He’s a great defensive player. And the guy is just so cool and collected.
“He is just so poised,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “He makes big plays and big shots. I thought Barry (Brown) made him earn a lot of it. He has got to be in consideration for player of the year in our league and player of the year in the country.”
Mason, who played 38 minutes against K-State, has played 412 of 445 minutes in the Jayhawks’ past 11 games. He doesn’t wear down, never signals to the bench that he needs a breather and would support an NCAA move to increase the time of games to 80 minutes.
Always a solid guard for KU, Mason has taken every aspect of his game to another level this season. He’s never been this kind of shooter, never been this deadly from three-point range.
Mason averaged 12.9 points last season, 12.6 as a sophomore.
His 1,601 career points rank 14th in Kansas history and, if the Jayhawks can make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, he has a shot to get into the top five, which would vault him past Valentine (1,821 points) and Collins (1,888) to become the top-scoring guard in Kansas history.
Hard to believe this is the same guy who averaged 5.5 points as a freshman.
Mason rarely breaks his stone-cold expression during a game. He never backs down, even going so far as to engage K-State giant D.J. Johnson in some shoving and nudging away from the watchful eyes of the officials.
Twice, Johnson asked the refs to watch what Mason was doing, but he never got caught. His goal was obviously to get inside the head of Johnson.
But good luck trying to get inside Mason’s head. He’s beyond that kind of stuff.
He’s got the stuff, though. The stuff of an All-American.